On Jan. 4, 2017, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued citations for one repeat and two failure-to-abate violations.

Kris Hoffman, director of OSHA’s Parsippany Area Office stated: “Our follow-up inspection found that two County Concrete employees were exposed to silica above the permissible limit as they cleaned concrete mixers.” In 2013, OSHA cited this company for these same hazards, “Employers must bear the responsibility of fully complying with respiratory protection requirements to protect the safety and health of their workers.”

OSHA’s Final Silica Rule took effect on June 23, 2016

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. The Final Rule is projected to provide net benefits of about $7.7 billion, annually.

This rule will help protect approximately 2.3 million workers who are exposed to respirable crystalline silica in their workplaces, including 2 million construction workers who drill, cut, crush, or grind silica-containing materials such as concrete and stone, and 300,000 workers in general industry operations, such as brick manufacturing, foundries, and hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking.

Industries have from one to five years to comply with most requirements.  Construction should be in compliance by June 23, 2017, General industry and Maritime should be in compliance by June 23, 2018, and Hydraulic Fracturing should be in compliance by June 23, 2018, with the exception for engineering controls with a compliance date of June 23, 2021.

Key Provisions of the rule include:

  • Reduces the permissible exposure limit (PEL) for respirable crystalline silica to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air, averaged over an 8-hour shift.
  • Requires 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.
  • Provides medical exams to monitor highly exposed workers and gives them information about their lung health.
  • Provides flexibility to help employers — especially small businesses — protect workers from silica exposure.

For more information, please visit OSHA’s website: https://www.osha.gov/silica/

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