February 6, 2020

OSHA Establishes National Emphasis Program to Reduce Silica Exposures

An OSHA directive (PDF) that went into effect on Tuesday describes policies and procedures for implementing a National Emphasis Program to reduce or eliminate worker exposures to respirable crystalline silica in general industry, the maritime industry, and construction. As part of the NEP, OSHA will target specific industries expected to have the highest exposures to silica and focus on enforcement of the agency’s new silica standards, which were published in March 2016. The respirable crystalline silica construction standard became enforceable on Sept. 23, 2017, and general industry and maritime employers were required to begin complying with their standard on June 23, 2018.

The new NEP replaces OSHA’s 2008 emphasis program for crystalline silica, which was canceled in October 2017. The replacement program addresses enforcement of OSHA’s new silica standards, which include a lower eight-hour time-weighted average permissible exposure limit for respirable crystalline silica of 50 µg/m3 in general industry, maritime, and construction. The new NEP also contains an updated list of target industries, refers compliance safety and health officers to current enforcement guidance for OSHA’s silica standards, and requires state OSHA agencies to participate in the program.

OSHA plans to conduct 90 days of compliance assistance for stakeholders prior to beginning programmed inspections for the new NEP. More information is available in the agency’s news release and on its safety and health topic page for crystalline silica.