Silica Update: OSHA Issues Interim Enforcement Guidance

On Oct. 19, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary Thomas Galassi issued a memorandum on Interim Enforcement Guidance for the Respirable Crystalline Silica in Construction Standard. The memo provides interim enforcement guidance to Compliance Safety and Health Officers (CSHOs) for enforcing the standard, stating: “Effective Oct. 23, 2017, OSHA will fully enforce all appropriate provisions of the Silica in Construction Standard. This memorandum will serve as interim enforcement guidance while the standard's companion compliance directive is proceeding through the review process. It will expire when the compliance directive becomes effective and available to the field.”

The Interim Enforcement Guidance memo follows the Sept. 20 memorandum, issued by Galassi, that announced a 30-day enforcement phase-in to offer compliance assistance to employers making good faith efforts to comply.

Initially issued on March 25, 2016, OSHA’s Occupational Exposure to Respirable Crystalline Silica final rule lowers the permissible exposure limit from the current standard of 250 micrograms per cubic meter of air to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air, averaged over an eight-hour day, and an action level of 25 micrograms per cubic meter of air. In addition, the final rule requires contractors to follow several ancillary provisions, such as housekeeping and written exposure plans. Crystalline silica is ubiquitous on construction sites by virtue of its presence in many commonly used construction materials and products such as concrete, bricks, stone, asphalt, tile and countertops.

On April 6, 2017, OSHA delayed enforcement of the silica standard as it applies to the construction industry from June 23, 2017, to Sept. 23, 2017.

The final rule is currently in litigation in the U.S. Appeals Court for the D.C. Circuit. 

For more information, read Jackson Lewis P.C.'s analysis on what employers need to know about the final rule. 

Resources on the final silica rule: