OSHA’s Final Rule on Respirable Crystalline Silica Standards

Are you ready for the new respirable crystalline silica standard by OSHA? A new rule from OSHA taking effect in September may require individuals who work in construction, general industry and maritime, and the hydraulic fracturing industries to have chest x-ray reads by a NIOSH certified B-Reader.

OSHA’s final rule to protect workers from exposure to respirable crystalline silica requires engineering controls to keep workers from breathing silica dust.

The rule goes into effect on September 23, 2017. This affects 2 million construction workers nationwide.

The final rule is to curb lung cancer (or catch it during early stages), silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and kidney disease in America’s workers by limiting their exposure to respirable crystalline silica. The rule is comprised of two standards, one for construction and one for general industry and maritime. In 1974, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommended that employees should not be exposed to respirable crystalline silica levels above 50 µg/m3 without any kind of protection. Clients in the following sectors may require their employees to get a chest X-Ray read by a NIOSH certified B-reader to check for exposure. Furthermore a B reading should be made part of a part of full medical exam for people who work in these industries.

Key Provisions of the rule

  • 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.

Compliance Schedule

Industries have one to five years to comply with most requirements, based on the following schedule:

Construction – June 23, 2017, one year after the effective date.

General Industry and Maritime – June 23, 2018, two years after the effective date.

Hydraulic Fracturing – June 23, 2018, two years after the effective date for all provisions except Engineering Controls, which have a compliance date of June 23, 2021.

Read more on this rule on the OSHA website.