Safety and OSHA News

OSHA revises respirable silica emphasis program

OSHA announced it has made some revisions to its National Emphasis Program on respirable crystalline silica in general industry, maritime and construction. 

This new NEP targets specific industries expected to have the highest numbers of workers exposed to silica. It focuses on enforcement of new silica standards, one for general industry and maritime, and one for construction.

Those standards were effective June 2016 and compliance was required Sept. 23, 2017 for construction and June 23, 2018 for general industry and maritime employers.

Respirable crystalline silica particles are generated by cutting, sawing, grinding, drilling and crushing certain types of stone and concrete materials. Inhaling those particles can cause silicosis, an incurable lung disease, along with other lung problems and diseases.

OSHA will conduct 90 days of compliance assistance for stakeholders prior to beginning programmed inspections for the NEP, according to an OSHA news release.

The NEP contains the following changes:

  • A revised application to the lower permissible exposure limit for respirable crystalline silica to 50 micrograms per cubic meter as an eight-hour time-weighted average in all three industries.
  • An updated list of target industries area OSHA offices will use to develop randomized lists of employers in their local jurisdictions for targeted inspections.
  • Compliance officers will refer to current enforcement guidance for inspection procedures.
  • All OSHA regional and area offices must comply with the NEP, but are not required to develop corresponding regional or local emphasis programs.
  • State Plans must participate because of the nationwide exposures to silica.
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