OSHA's new silica rule is designed to reduce the risk of lung cancer, silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and kidney disease in the workforce by limiting workers' exposure to respirable crystalline silica.

The new rule lowers the previous OSHA exposure limits for silica in the workplace, which date back to the 1960s.

The compliance date for the construction industry was Sept. 23, 2017. (OSHA delayed the original June enforcement date to conduct additional outreach and provide educational materials and guidance for employers.)

Enforcement of the final rule in general industry and maritime is scheduled to begin June 23, 2018.

Key facts about the rule include:

  • The PEL—permissible exposure limit—for respirable silica is now set to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air, averaged over an eight-hour shift.
  • The new PEL is about 50% lower than the current general industry standard and about 20% lower than the current construction standard.

What You Can Do

  • Develop a written exposure control plan and train workers on silica risks and how to limit exposures.
  • Limit worker access to high exposure areas.
  • Provide respirators when engineering controls cannot adequately limit exposure.
  • Provide medical exams to monitor highly exposed workers and gives them information about their lung health.
  • Use engineering controls (such as water or ventilation) to limit worker exposure to the PEL.

Beryllium Rule

OSHA's new beryllium rule is designed to prevent chronic beryllium disease and lung cancer in workers by limiting their exposure to beryllium and beryllium compounds.  

About 62,000 workers are exposed to beryllium in their workplaces, including approximately 11,500 construction and shipyard workers who may conduct abrasive blasting operations using slags that contain trace amounts of beryllium.

Enforcement of the new beryllium rule is scheduled to begin March 12, 2018.
Enforcement of the new beryllium rule is scheduled to begin March 12, 2018. Employers covered by the rule have until March 11, 2019, to provide change rooms and showers, and until March 10, 2020, to implement engineering controls.

Key facts about the rule include:

  • Reduces the permissible exposure limit (PEL) for beryllium to 0.2 micrograms per cubic meter of air, averaged over eight hours.
  • Establishes a new short-term exposure limit for beryllium of 2.0 micrograms per cubic meter of air, over a 15-minute sampling period.
  • Requires employers to use engineering and work practice controls (such as ventilation or enclosure) to limit worker exposure to beryllium, provide respirators when controls cannot adequately limit exposure, limit worker access to high-exposure areas, develop a written exposure control plan, and train workers on beryllium hazards.
  • Requires employers to make medical exams available to monitor exposed workers and provides medical removal protection benefits to workers identified with a beryllium-related disease.

What You Can Do

  • Develop a written exposure control plan, offer medical exams to highly exposed workers, and train workers on silica risks and how to limit exposures.
  • Use engineering controls (such as water or ventilation) to limit worker exposure to the PEL.
  • Limit worker access to high exposure areas.
  • Provide respirators when engineering controls cannot adequately limit exposure.
  • Provide medical exams to monitor highly exposed workers and give them information about their lung health.

    About the author: Milton Jacobs is a Certified Safety Professional and Founder and President of Safety Solution Consultants Inc. in East Granby (860.653.3580).