OSHA Memorandum Details Expectations Following Launch of the Respirable Silica Standard for Construction’s Enforcement on Sept. 23

On September 20, 2017, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released a letter of interpretation detailing the upcoming launch of its enforcement of the Respirable Crystalline Silica construction standard, codified at 29 CFR § 1926.1153, on September 23, 2017. OSHA states that, during the first 30 days that the silica construction standard is enforceable (so from September 23 to October 23, 2017), OSHA will be looking for good faith efforts by employers to comply with the standard’s new requirements, and it will assist employers who are making such efforts to assure both: (i) understanding of the standard and its requirements and (ii) compliance with the new standard.

In the letter of interpretation, OSHA states that it will look for good faith efforts by covered employers to meet the silica construction standard’s requirements during the first 30 days that the standard is enforceable (i.e., from September 23 through October 23, 2017). During that time, OSHA will reach out to employers to provide compliance assistance in order to help assure compliance with the new standard’s requirements. OSHA notes that it will pay particular attention to assisting employers implement the controls of Table 1, in light of the newness of that approach.

OSHA warns however, that if, upon inspection, it appears an employer is not making “any efforts to comply” with the standard during this initial 30-day time period, OSHA will collect exposure air monitoring (performed in accordance with OSHA procedures) during the inspection and, furthermore, it may consider issuing a citation to those employers. OSHA then notes that any citations that are proposed as a result of inspections conducted during this time period would require review by the National Office.

The Silica construction standard establishes a new 8-hour time-weighted average (TWA) Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) of 50 μg/m3, an action level (AL) of 25 μg/m3, along with a number of related requirements (which OSHA calls “ancillary requirements”). OSHA recently published guidance for the standard, entitled “Small Entity Compliance Guide for the Respirable Crystalline Silica Standard for Construction,” that is linked to below.

Source: Occupational Health and Safety Administration Memorandum for Regional Administrators, “Delay of Enforcement of the Crystalline Silica Standard for Construction under 29 CFR 1926.1153,” September 20, 2017.