This week, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released the long-anticipated Occupational Crystalline Silica Rule. Among other provisions, the final 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.
Allows for use of compressed air, dry sweeping, and dry brushing where other cleaning methods are not feasible.
The rule is effective June 23, 2016; however, companies have anywhere from one to five years to comply based on their category. Manufacturers are considered in the “General Industry and Maritime” category and will have until June 23, 2018 to comply with most provisions.