On 1 September, the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a new rule intended to protect workers from exposure to respirable crystalline silica (silica dust). The rule is comprised of two standards - one for the Construction industry, which takes effect starting 23 September, and another for "General Industry" and maritime industries, which takes effect in September 2018. OSHA reports that 2.3 million American workers are exposed to silica dust in their workplaces, 2 million of which are construction workers who handle concrete and stone.
Per OSHA's website, the new 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.