On March 24, 2016, OSHA issued the prepublication version of the final rule regarding occupational exposure to respirable crystalline silica, including one standard for the general industry and maritime, and another standard for construction work (“Final Rule”). The rule applicable to construction work will be codified at 29 C.F.R. § 1926.1153. It becomes effective June 23, with compliance obligations beginning at least a year later (June 23, 2017). The more stringent permissible exposure limit (“PEL”) of 50 μg/m3 and the “action level” of 25 μg/m3 are the same as in the proposed rule that OSHA issued in 2013.
The Final Rule essentially creates three categories of construction activities that are regulated differently depending on levels of exposure to respirable silica: (1) activities excluded from regulation; (2) activities listed in Table 1 that are afforded a “safe harbor” from the requirement to conduct an exposure assessment; and (3) activities that require an exposure assessment. Any employers that perform “construction work” – which may also include employers outside of the construction industry – must consider where their activities fall within the construction standard for silica.