US OSHA began enforcing the respirable crystalline silica rule for the construction industry on September 23, 2017. The rule had been set to go into effect in June; however, the Department of Labor and OSHA delayed enforcement of the rule by 90 days. The delay was intended to provide DOL and OSHA additional time to issue guidance to industry regarding compliance.
The construction silica rule is a companion to OSHA’s general industry silica rule that is scheduled to be enforceable beginning June 23, 2018.
The rule lowers the permissible exposure limit (PEL) for respirable silica dust in the construction industry, to 50 microgram per cubic meter exposure limit, calculated as an eight-hour time-weighted average (TWA). Employers subject to the construction rule may comply by implementing required engineering and work practice controls and respiratory protection , or by completing exposure assessments of employees above the action level of 25 micrograms per cubic meter.
Under the rule, employers must:
- Make medical screening available to employees who are required to use a respirator more than 30 or more days per year;
- Develop a written exposure control plan;
- Maintain certain records; and
- Comply with certain limitations on housekeeping practices, such as using wet sweeping, HEPA-filtered vacuuming, or other methods designed to reduce employee exposure when feasible.