On Friday, OSHA announced a proposed rule for occupational exposure to respirable crystalline silica, a proposal that had been delayed at the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) for over two years. The proposed rulemaking was originally sent to OIRA on Feb. 14, 2011, for what should have been a 90- to 120-day review. The proposal includes a new proposed permissible exposure limit (PEL) for respirable crystalline silica: 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air calculated as an 8-hour TWA.
In addition, the proposed rule details widely used methods for controlling workers’ exposure to crystalline silica, conducting medical surveillance, and training workers about silica-related hazards. The proposed rulemaking would establish two separate standards: one for general industry and maritime employment and one for the construction industry.
“OSHA’s objective is to develop a standard that not only protects workers, but also makes sense in the workplace,” said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for OSHA.
The public comment period for the proposal will be open for 90 days following publication in the Federal Register. Michaels noted that public hearings on the rule are scheduled to begin in early March.
AIHA® President Barbara J. Dawson, CIH, CSP, released a statement on Friday following OSHA’s announcement of the proposed rule: “AIHA is pleased to learn that after more than two years of waiting for the White House to release the proposed rule for occupational exposure to respirable crystalline silica, the process is now moving forward. … AIHA will offer more definitive comments as soon as the proposed rule has been thoroughly reviewed. We look forward to working with OSHA and other stakeholders in finalizing a rule that will reduce employees’ exposure to silica in the workplace.”
For more information about the proposal, visit OSHA’s new Web page on the crystalline silica rulemaking.