OSHA’s new Respirable Crystalline Silica Dust Rules (“Silica Rules”) for the construction industry are now fully in effect, after OSHA extended the compliance and enforcement deadline to September 23, 2017. Under the new Silica Rules, all contractors who engage in activities that create respirable crystalline silica dust--such as by cutting, grinding, or blasting materials like concrete, stone, and brick-- must meet stricter exposure standards including a lower limit on the amount of dust workers may inhale, as well as various other requirements.
Those who do not comply with the Silica Rules are subject to large fines, including a $12,675 per violation fine.
Of particular note to general contractors is OSHA’s practice of fining both the general contractor and subcontractor for that subcontractor’s violation of an OSHA rule with a multi-employer citation under certain circumstances. Thus, it is recommended that general contractors take a proactive approach in ensuring their subcontractors comply with the new Silica Rules.
Per OSHA’s new Silica Rules, contractors can meet the stricter exposure standards by using the control methods laid out in OSHA’s Table 1 of the construction standard or by measuring workers' exposure to silica and independently deciding which dust controls work best to limit exposures in their workplaces.
In addition to the exposure limits, contractors are required to:
- Develop a written silica exposure control plan.
- Designate someone (a “competent” employee) to implement the plan.
- Adjust housekeeping practices to maximize control of silica dust.
- Train workers on how to limit exposure to silica.
- Keep records of workers’ silica exposure and related medical treatment.
- Provide medical exams every three years to employees who are exposed to silica to the point of having to wear a respirator for 30 days or more each year. The exams must include lung-function tests and chest x-rays.
OSHA has provided the below resources for the construction industry:
Please contact attorney Jodie McDougal if you have any questions regarding the new rules and contractor compliance.