OSHA considering changes to silica standard

OSHA may “broaden the circumstances” under which certain employers would be permitted to comply with its Respirable Crystalline Silica Standard for Construction, according to a request for information and comment issued by the agency.

Specifically, OSHA is looking for information on additional engineering and work practice control methods to effectively limit exposure to silica for the equipment and tasks currently listed on Table 1 of the standard. The agency is also requesting information about other construction equipment and tasks that generate silica that it should consider adding to Table 1, along with information about their associated engineering and work practice control methods.

In addition, OSHA is seeking comments about whether to revise paragraph (a)(3) of the Respirable Crystalline Silica Standard for General Industry to broaden the circumstances under which general industry and maritime employers would be permitted to comply with Table 1 of the silica standard for construction.

Why a standard?

The standard, which is aimed at protecting workers from exposure to silica and silica dust, was issued in 2018. Crystalline silica particles may be generated during abrasive blasting, fabrication and installation of composite stone countertops, excavation, paving and resurfacing, brick and stone cutting and many other workplace operations. Breathing in the airborne particles can cause lung disease and silicosis, an incurable lung disease.

OSHA says the information it gathers will allow it to consider new developments and enhanced control methods for equipment that generates exposures to silica, and provide additional data on exposures to silica from equipment and tasks using a variety of control methods under different workplace conditions.

“Expanding Table 1 to include additional engineering and work practice control methods, equipment, and tasks could provide employers with more flexibility and reduce regulatory burdens while maintaining protections for employees,” according to the agency.