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OSHA issues interim enforcement guidance on silica standard for construction

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Washington – OSHA has released interim enforcement guidance for its Respirable Crystalline Silica in Construction Standard (1926.1153), which is set to be enforced in full on Oct. 23.

The guidance was issued Oct. 19 in a memorandum to OSHA regional administrators from Patrick Kapust, deputy director of the agency’s Directorate of Enforcement Programs. RAs should use the guidance to help them gauge whether employers meet various requirements, including those for inspections and avoiding citations. The guidance also provides flow charts for evaluating employer methods of controlling worker exposure to silica.

The document “does not provide guidance on all of the standard’s provisions,” the memo states, adding that a final compliance directive is in the review process.

The standard establishes a new permissible exposure limit for respirable crystalline silica at 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air averaged during an 8-hour shift. That PEL is five times lower than the previous limit for construction.

A known carcinogen, respirable crystalline silica is found in commonly used construction materials, such as sand, concrete, brick, stone and mortar. Exposure to silica dust can result in silicosis, a chronic disease that involves scarring of the lungs. OSHA estimates that 2.3 million workers, including 2 million in construction, are exposed to the dust.

The standard went into effect Sept. 23 after an earlier delay. However, OSHA granted an additional 30 days to comply to employers found to be acting in “good faith” to meet the new requirements.

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