The final OSHA silica rule is far more rigorous than the one it replaces.
After three years of study, revision, and input from industry and labor union experts, the “Final OSHA Silica Safety Rule” goes into effect on June 23rd, 2016. Contractors will be required to begin complying with the new rule on or about June 23rd 2017.
According to an article in Construction Law by Barry M. Hartman and Stephen J. Matzura, the portion of the Rule that pertains to construction will reduce the “permissible exposure limit” to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air in an eight hour work day. The previous level was 100 micrograms per cubic meter.
“The Final Rule essentially creates three categories of construction activities that are regulated differently depending on levels of exposure to respirable silica.”
- Activities where exposure is less than 25 micrograms per cubic meter are “excluded from all compliance obligations.” This category includes all tasks where the exposure to respirable silica is minimal.
- A “Safe Harbor” has been created for activities listed in “Table 1.” This Table lists activities that OSHA has determined do not create exposure to respirable silica above the permissible exposure limit. These tasks do not require employers to conduct assessment tests.
- “Activities not within the Safe Harbor of Table 1 [do] require… an exposure assessment.” This assessment is time consuming and expensive. If employee exposure tests above 50 micrograms, employers are required to provide their employees with, among other things, “respirators and medical surveillance.”
As might be expected, the construction industry experts are vehemently opposed to the new rule. They contend it is unnecessary, and financially impossible for contractors to implement.
Litigation challenging the fairness and reasonableness of the Final OSHA Silica Safety Rule has already begun. For now, however, the Rule is the law and contractor should make plans to comply with it.
How Are Your Construction Activities Regulated under OSHA’s Final Silica Rule? Barry m. Hartman and Stephen J. Matzura, Construction Law, March 28th, 2016