OSHA Releases Silica Rule

OSHA has said the proposed rule "would bring protections into the 21st century" because it currently enforces 40-year-old permissible exposure limits for crystalline silica in general industry, construction, and shipyards.

U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez and Dr. David Michaels, the OSH assistant secretary, are scheduled to brief news media representatives March 24 on OSHA's newly released silica rule. OSHA has been working on the proposed rule for years and published an NPRM on Sept. 12, 2013, then considered more than 2,000 comments and held 14 days of public hearings.

The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH) and other organizations that have pushed for this rule to be enacted, welcomed it immediately. "Workers across America can breathe easier today," said National COSH Acting Executive Director Jessica Martinez. "We've known for decades that silica dust is deadly. With new common-sense rules in place to limit exposure, we can save lives and reduce suffering from silicosis, cancer and other life-threatening diseases."

The rule will cut the permissible exposure limit (PEL) for silica dust to 50 micrograms of silica per cubic meter of air, averaged over an eight-hour day -- a limit two to five times lower than the current PEL.

Two standards are in the final rule; they will take effect June 23, 2016, and affected industries have varying amounts of time to come into compliance with most requirements:

Construction: June 23, 2017
General industry and maritime: June 23, 2018
Hydraulic fracturing: June 23, 2018 (for all provisions except engineering controls, for which the compliance date is June 23, 2021)

"Decades in the making, OSHA's new silica rule will better protect millions of workers from a highly toxic, cancer-causing substance that has killed thousands while the rule slowly worked its way through the regulatory gauntlet, administration after administration. Today, in quarries, foundries, building sites, and kitchen rehab jobs across the country, workers can look forward to breathing cleaner air," said Center for Progressive Reform Executive Director Matt Shudtz. "But today's announcement is far from the end of the story. Next comes the inevitable litigation. Following their tired playbook, special interest groups will beg a court to put a hold on the rule, hoping to delay or undo it. Workers have waited long enough for this rule. It is high time industry made an investment in the future by establishing the protections this rule requires. Investing now in tools and policies to better protect workers will save hundreds of lives every year. That's not just a number; these are real people who will not have to suffer the pain and indignity of gasping for breath simply because they went to work at a job where the hazards of silica dust were ignored because OSHA's outdated standard required so little of their employers."

Source: OHSonline