Image source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)
Construction firms will have an extra 30 days to comply with the new, tougher Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standard for airborne silica on jobsites.
OSHA began enforcing the construction silica regulation on Sept. 23. But Thomas Galassi, acting deputy assistant secretary for the U.S. Department of Labor, said in a Sept. 20 memo to regional OSHA administrators that for 30 days the agency’s compliance officers will not issue penalties to employers that demonstrate “good faith efforts” to meet the new requirements. Companies that do not appear to be taking steps to comply, however, may receive citations.
A coalition of construction industry groups has challenged the new silica rule in court, contending that it is not technically or economically feasible and does not take the constantly changing nature of construction work into consideration.
Labor unions and worker advocates say that exposure to silica dust causes a host of illnesses, including silicosis and lung cancer, and that technologies to protect workers are available and inexpensive.
OSHA says the rule will save more than 600 lives and prevent more than 900 new cases of silicosis each year. The standard, finalized in March, establishes a new eight-hour, time-weighted average permissible exposure limit that is approximately 1/5 the previous maximum.
Under the new standard, employers also must develop a written exposure-control plan that identifies tasks that might expose workers to silica dust and methods used to protect workers. Additionally, companies must train employees to limit exposures and keep records of workers’ silica exposure and medical exams.
Source: Engineering News-Record