OSHA Guide Helps Small Business Employers Comply with Silica Rule

Published July 19, 2017

​A new compliance guide published by OSHA is intended to help small business employers comply with the agency’s respirable crystalline silica standard for general industry and maritime. The guide provides information to help employers better understand the standard’s requirements, which include assessing worker exposures, using engineering and work practice controls to keep exposures below a specified safety threshold, and offering medical exams to certain highly exposed workers. Other sections of the guide cover regulated areas, methods of compliance, respiratory protection, housekeeping, and recordkeeping. Individuals can download the PDF from OSHA’s website. A separate guide (PDF) is available for employers in the construction industry. 

OSHA’s final rule to protect workers from exposure to respirable crystalline silica was published in March 2016 and comprises two standards, one for construction and one for general industry and maritime. The final rule sets a new permissible exposure limit (PEL) for respirable crystalline silica of 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air calculated as an eight-hour time-weighted average (TWA). The new PEL is approximately 20 percent of the previous PEL for construction. Both standards took effect on June 23, 2016.

Enforcement for general industry and maritime is scheduled to begin on June 23, 2018, except for phase-in dates for medical surveillance and for engineering controls in the oil and gas industry. The new compliance guide for general industry and maritime includes a “dates” section that describes employers’ obligations regarding these two items.

Enforcement of the construction standard was due to begin on June 23, 2017, but OSHA announced in April that the agency will delay enforcement of its respirable crystalline silica standard for construction until Sept. 23, 2017.

Learn more about OSHA’s silica rule on the agency’s website.