OSHA Updates Silica Standard After 45 Years

After a 45-year journey, OSHA has finally updated its crystalline silica standard. Under the new standard, permissible limits will be cut to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air over an 8-hour period. Current limits range from 250 micrograms in construction to 100 micrograms in a variety of other industries. The standard requires employers to use engineering controls, provide respirators, limit worker access to high-exposure areas, develop a written exposure plan, and train workers on silica risks. It also requires that employers provide medical exams and pulmonary health information to high-risk workers.

The standards in the final rule take effect on June 23, 2016 and industries will have one to five years to comply with most requirements on the following schedule:

  • Construction: June 23, 2017
  • General Industry and Maritime: June 23, 2018
  • Hydraulic Fracturing: June 23, 2018 (except Engineering Controls, which have a compliance date of June 23, 2019)

OSHA estimates that the new standards will save 600 lives and prevent 900 cases of silicosis yearly. They calculate a net benefit to business of $2.8-4.6 billion (due to reduced mortality and disease) against an industry cost of around $650 million. Read more here. https://www.osha.gov/silica/index.html