OSHA Begins Full Enforcement of the New Respirable Crystalline Silica Standard

On October 23, 2017 OSHA began full enforcement of the respirable crystalline silica standard for construction. You can access the standard here. Links to Appendix A & B of the standard are contained in the bullet list at the top of the standard. Additional information about silica can be found here.

On October 19, 2017, OSHA issued a memorandum to OSHA Regional Administrators providing interim enforcement guidance for Compliance Safety and Health Officers (CSHOs) commencing enforcement on October 23. The memorandum serves as interim enforcement guidance and expires when the standard’s companion compliance directive becomes effective and available to the field. Here's that memo: OSHA 10-19-17 Silica Memo.

It is important to note, however, that the memorandum does not provide specific enforcement guidance on all of the standard's provisions. In addition, OSHA has revoked its National Emphasis Program on Crystalline Silica which provided guidance to CSHOs for targeting inspections of jobsites with the potential to generate elevated exposures to crystalline silica.

The memorandum outlines inspection guidance for CSHOs for both methods of compliance – Specified Exposure Control Methods (Table 1) and Alternative Exposure Control Methods (Performance and Scheduled Monitoring Options). During an inspection/investigation, CSHOs will:

  • Collect personal breathing zone samples when controls for tasks list in Table 1 are not being fully and properly implemented or when alternative exposure control methods are not being properly implemented;
  • Review the employer’s written silica Exposure Control Plan (ECP) and other relevant programs (Respiratory Protection Program, Hazard Communication Program, etc.). If the employer conducted an exposure assessment, those records will also be reviewed; and
  • Interview affected employees, including the competent person, as part of the overall assessment of the employer's implementation of its ECP.

The memorandum also:

  • Approves the use of sweeping compounds (e.g., non-grit, oil- or waxed-based) as a housekeeping method;
  • Clarifies that the 30-day trigger to make medical examinations available to employees who will be required to wear a respirator for 30 or more days a year applies per employer (exposures with previous employers do not count toward the 30-day total); and
  • Outlines how exposure variability will be taken into consideration when comparing the results of employer and CSHO samples.

Although the memorandum does not include specific guidance on required employee information and training (paragraph (i)(2) of the standard), contractors are encouraged to continue to ensure that employees covered by the standard are trained in accordance with the provisions outlined in the standard.