Crystalline Silica Rule Enforcement Begins Sept. 23

OSHA will begin enforcement of its crystalline silica rule on Saturday, Sept. 23.

Issued in March 2016, the rule seeks to limit exposure to silica by reducing the permitted amount of silica exposure from 250 micrograms per cubic meter over an eight-hour period to 50 micrograms.

Silica is found in many commonly used building products including concrete, mortar, bricks, blocks, rocks and stones. The use of grinders, masonry saws, jackhammers, handheld powered chipping tools, drills and other tools on these substances can expose workers to silica.

The rule contains a comprehensive list of silica exposure control methods as well as alternative exposure control methods.

Additionally, companies must:

  • Establish and implement a written exposure control plan that identifies tasks that involve silica.
  • exposure and methods used to protect workers, including procedures to restrict access to work areas where high exposures may occur.
  • Designate a 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.

The rule includes exemptions for procedures in which the risk of silica exposure remains low, including removing concrete formwork, mixing mortar and pouring concrete footers, slab foundation and foundation walls.

Exposure to silica can cause kidney disease, lung cancer and other respiratory conditions.
Enforcement of the rule was to begin in June but was delayed 90 days due to the unique nature of the requirements in the construction standard.

Housing First Minnesota has a series of documents available on the OSHA Silica Rule. Please contact Nick Erickson, regulatory affairs manager, for more information.