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OSHA Announces the Much-Anticipated Final Rule on Silica

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

OSHA recently issued its final rule on protecting workers from occupational exposure to respirable crystalline silica.  The final rule, which has been in development for more than 15 years, will be OSHA’s first updated regulation for silica since 1971.

The rule contains two standards, one for construction and one for general industry and maritime.  The changes to the rule include a lower permissible exposure limit (PEL), engineering controls, protective equipment, medical exams, and more.  See some of the key changes to the rule, the compliance schedule, and additional guidance below.

The key changes include:

  • Reduction of the permissible exposure limit (PEL) for respirable crystalline silica to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air, averaged over an 8-hour shift.
  • Requiring employers to: use engineering controls (such as water or ventilation) to limit worker exposure to the PEL; provide respirators when engineering controls cannot adequately limit exposure; limit worker access to high exposure areas; develop a written exposure control plan, offer medical exams to highly exposed workers, and train workers on silica risks and how to limit exposures.
  • Providing medical exams to monitor highly exposed workers and giving them information about their lung health.
  • Providing flexibility to help employers — especially small businesses — protect workers from silica exposure.


Compliance Schedule

Both standards contained in the final rule take effect on June 23, 2016, after which industries have one to five years to comply with most requirements, based on the following schedule:

Construction - June 23, 2017, one year after the effective date.

General Industry and Maritime - June 23, 2018, two years after the effective date.

Hydraulic Fracturing - June 23, 2018, two years after the effective date for all provisions except Engineering Controls, which have a compliance date of June 23, 2021. (OSHA)


For more information on this rule, visit the OSHA web-page on the final rule.  The page contains several additional pieces of information and guidance, such as:

To find out more about this topic, click here.
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