Enforcement of Silica Rule Starts; ‘Good Faith Efforts’ Accepted

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has announced it will consider “good faith efforts” by employers to comply with the new silica rule for the first 30 days following the start of enforcement on Saturday, Sept. 23. Note that a legal challenge on the silica rule is still pending and is scheduled to be argued before the U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit starting Sept. 26.

OSHA will offer outreach and assistance to help ensure that covered employees are fully and properly complying with the new requirements as they go into effect. Employers may be cited if it appears upon inspection they are not making any efforts to meet the new rule. To ensure implementation of the new standard, OSHA has developed interim inspection and citation guidance.

The Construction Industry Safety Coalition (CISC)—made up of 25 trade associations, including the NAHB and NARI—have requested OSHA withdraw the increased crystalline silica exposure standard and work with the construction industry to develop a more feasible and economical approach to dealing with the silica hazards. The NARI Government Affairs Committee released an update indicating that, despite CISC reaching out to the Agency regarding potential resolutions, the Department of Labor (DOL) has indicated it has no desire to wholly revamp, vacate the rule in any way or provide another blanket extension to the start of enforcement, even in light of the pending court case.

As a reminder, the Final Rule on Occupational Exposure to Respirable Crystalline Silica for construction reduces the permissible exposure limit for crystalline from 250 to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air, averaged over an eight-hour shift. It also requires the use of engineering controls, such as ventilation and wet methods, for cutting and sawing crystalline silica-containing materials to reduce exposure. The NAHB offers additional materials on compliance in its silica in construction toolkit.

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