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OSHA Silica Rule
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OSHA Silica Rule

The New OSHA Silica Rule
By Andrew L. Smith, Esq
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) has issued a final rule to curb lung cancer, silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and kidney disease in the construction industry by limiting exposure to respirable crystalline silica. OSHA estimates that the rule will save over 600 lives and prevent more than 900 new cases of silicosis each year, once its effects are fully realized.

According to OSHA, the final rule will improve worker protection by:

• Reducing the permissible exposure limit for crystalline silica to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air, averaged over an eight-hour shift.
• Requiring employers to use engineering controls (such as water or ventilation) and work practices to limit worker exposure; provide respiratory protection when controls are not able to limit exposures to the permissible level; limit access to high exposure areas; train workers; and provide medical exams to highly exposed workers.
• Providing greater certainty and ease of compliance to construction employers, including many small employers, by including a table of specified controls they can follow to be in compliance, without having to monitor exposures.
• Staggering compliance dates to ensure employers have sufficient time to meet the requirements, e.g., extra time for the hydraulic fracturing (fracking) industry to install new engineering controls and for all general industry employers to offer medical surveillance to employees exposed between the PEL and 50 micrograms per cubic meter and the action level of 25 micrograms per cubic meter.
All construction employers covered by the standard are required to:
• Establish and implement a written exposure control plan that identifies tasks that involve exposure and methods used to protect workers, including procedures to restrict access to work areas where high exposures may occur.
• Designate a competent person to implement the written exposure control plan.
• Restrict housekeeping practices that expose workers to silica where feasible alternatives are available.
• Offer medical exams, including chest X-rays and lung function tests, every three years for workers who are required by the standard to wear a respirator for 30 or more days per year.
• Train workers on work operations that result in silica exposure and ways to limit exposure.
• Keep records of workers’ silica exposure and medical exams.

Construction employers must comply with all requirements of the standard by June 23, 2017, except requirements for laboratory evaluation of exposure samples, which begin on June 23, 2018.

Andrew L. Smith is an attorney in the Cincinnati, Ohio office of Smith, Rolfes & Skavdahl Company, LPA who concentrates his practice in the areas of construction law and general litigation. Andrew has extensive experience in state and federal court handling complex civil litigation matters and counseling businesses of all shapes and sizes. He is also the co-host of and an avid UC Bearcats follower.