Silica Exposures & General Industry
On September 12, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) formally issued its proposed rulemaking to limit and control respirable crystalline silica exposures in general industry and construction. It is one of the most significant and comprehensive health rulemakings undertaken by OSHA. The proposal would cut the workplace permissible exposure limits (PELs) for respirable crystalline silica by half or more, to 50 mg/cu.m for all industries, and would establish a first-ever Action Level for silica exposure at 25 mg/cu.m.
The proposed regulation also includes a variety of ancillary requirements to accompany this tighter exposure limit, including requirements that employers must conduct frequent exposure monitoring for crystalline silica, provide medical surveillance for some workers, identify work zones where exposures may exceed the PEL, mark these zones and limit access to them, provide training regarding silica hazards, and more. The proposed regulation also includes several requirements that restrict common activities that may increase silica exposures such as sweeping and using compressed air, and it requires installation of engineering controls such as mechanical ventilation to reduce exposures even if not effective (use of respirators does not count toward meeting the new PEL).