Publication of Final Silica Rule Announced

Filed in Labor, Safety and Health by on March 24, 2016 0 Comments

Today OSHA announced it has issued the final silica rule, which will be published in tomorrow’s Federal Register.

silicasawAfter a brief initial review, it appears that the final rule contains some of the same problematic provisions that NAHB identified in comments submitted to OSHA during the rulemaking process.

Though the agency has made major changes to the construction rule, NAHB remains concerned that the final rule is not technologically and economically feasible for the home building industry.

Highlights of the new construction rule include:

  • Permissible exposure limit (PEL) for crystalline silica has been reduced to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air, averaged over an eight-hour shift.
  • Employers will be required to use engineering controls (such as water or ventilation), establish work practices that limit worker exposure, and provide respiratory protection when controls are not able to limit exposures to the permissible level.
  • Employers must prepare a written exposure control plan and find a competent person to implement it. The plan must contain procedures to restrict access to work areas where high exposures may occur. (Note: Neither the written exposure control plan nor the competent person requirements were part of the original silica proposal.)
  • Employers can either use a control method laid out in Table 1 of the construction standard, or they can measure workers’ exposure to silica and independently decide which dust controls work best to limit exposures to the PEL in their workplaces. Table 1 matches common construction tasks with dust control methods, so employers know exactly what they need to do to limit worker exposures to silica. Employers who follow Table 1 correctly are not required to measure workers’ exposure to silica and are not subject to the PEL.
  • The rule does not apply where silica exposures will remain low under any foreseeable conditions (e.g., when only performing tasks such as mixing mortar, pouring concrete footers, slab foundation and foundation walls and removing concrete formwork).
  • The standard allows for use of compressed air, dry sweeping and dry brushing where other cleaning methods are not feasible.
  • It does not require protective clothing.
  • Employers will be required to provide workers who must wear a respirator for 30 or more days per year with medical exams and to keep records of workers’ silica exposure and medical exams.
  • Workers must be trained on work operations that result in silica exposure and ways to limit exposure.
  • Construction employers must comply with all requirements of the standard by June 23, 2017.

NAHB continues to review the 1,772 page pre-publication copy of the rule and will provide members with more information on its potential impact in the coming days and weeks. In the meantime, please contact Rob Matuga at 202-266-8507 with questions or concerns.

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