On Feb. 5, OSHA announced a number of changes to its National Emphasis Program (NEP) on silica. The program focuses on enforcement of silica standards with an emphasis on specific industries that are expected to have the most respirable crystalline silica exposure for workers.
OSHA’s two standards pertaining to silica include one for general industry and maritime, and another for construction. They originally came into effect in June of 2016 with a compliance deadline of June 23, 2017, for construction companies and June 23, 2018, for general industry and maritime employers.
Last month’s NEP changes included:
- - Changing the lower permissible exposure limit for respirable crystalline silica to 50 micrograms per cubic meter as an eight-hour time-weighted average for general industry, maritime and construction
- - Updating the target industries from which local offices will develop a randomized list of local employers for targeted inspections
- - Instructing compliance safety and health officers to refer to current enforcement guidance for respirable crystalline silica inspection procedures
- - Establishing that all regional and area OSHA offices must comply with the silica NEP, but are not required to develop and implement their own regional or local emphasis programs
- - Making state plan participation in the silica NEP mandatory
The administration also announced that it will provide compliance assistance to stakeholders for 90 days before programmed inspections begin.
Respirable crystalline silica consists of small silica particles that are created when cutting, sawing, grinding, drilling or crushing materials such as rock, concrete, brick and mortar. Respirable crystalline silica has been known to cause a number of life-threatening health problems for workers including:
- - Silicosis
- - Incurable lung disease
- - Lung cancer
- - Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
Approximately 2.3 million people in the U.S. are exposed to silica at work. As an employer, you are responsible for providing a safe workplace for your workers. Click here for more information on respirable crystalline silica.