Health & Safety Watch: OSHA Seeks Input on Silica Control Measures

OSHA has announced that the administration is seeking input on the revised silica rule for the construction industry that went into effect last year. Specifically, OSHA wants information on the effectiveness of silica control measures that are not included in Table 1: Specified Exposure Control Methods When Working With Materials Containing Crystalline Silica.

Table 1 lists the dust control methods that have been found to be most effective by the specific tool being used or task being performed. When the table is followed correctly, with the additional use of respirators as noted, employers are not required to measure the silica exposure levels of their workers, and they are exempt from the permissible exposure limit (PEL).

In addition to new silica control measures, OSHA also wants information on new tools or tasks that can expose workers to silica along with the effectiveness of dust control methods to limit exposure during those tasks or with those tools.

After OSHA has gathered information, it will be evaluated for the purpose of determining whether revisions should be made to Table 1.

According to a report from Bloomberg, six months after enforcement of the new silica rule began, 116 violations had been issued. Thirty-five of these violations had to do with not measuring exposure levels while 31 violations dealt with not following the information in Table 1. Eighty percent of these violations are classified as serious and carry fines of up to $12,934.

Enforcement of the rule is steadily increasing, but so are complaints from employers about the agency lacking proper guidance on the new rule. The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) has already submitted lists of compliance questions in order to help the agency with guidance.

“OSHA is looking at this and I hope we’ll have something fairly soon,” stated Robert Matuga, safety director of the NAHB.

Interested parties who would like to submit information pertaining to revisions in Table 1, are encouraged to contact the following office:

William Perry 
Director, Directorate of Standards and Guidance 
Department of Labor 
Occupational Safety and Health Administration 
200 Constitution Avenue NW., FP Building, Room N-3718, 
Washington, DC 20210 
Phone:202 693-1950 
Fax:202 693-1678 
Email: [email protected]