In Effect Now: OSHA Will Help Employers Comply with New Crystalline Silica Standard

Posted on 6/25/2018 by Roger Marks

In a memo to Regional OSHA Administrators regarding the new permissible exposure limit (PEL) standards for respirable crystalline silica, the Agency stated its plan to “assist employers who are making good-faith efforts to meet the new standard’s requirements.”

Within the first 30 days of enforcement of the revised Standard, OSHA inspectors who determine an employer has failed to make a “good-faith effort” may conduct air monitoring and consider citations for noncompliance with any applicable part of the new Silica Exposure Standard. Any citation recommended for non-compliance with the new PEL standards in the first thirty days following the effective date will be reviewed by OSHA’s National Office before it may be issued.

The new, lower PEL for respirable silica took effect for the construction industry in 2017 and took effect for general industry and maritime workplaces on June 23, 2018.

OSHA’s New PEL for Respirable Crystalline Silica

A naturally occurring mineral, silica makes up about 12% of the earth’s crust. When quartz and other silica-containing rocks are ground into dust, employees may inhale crystalline particles, which over time causes chronic silicosis and even lung cancer.

Finalized in March 2016, the new employee safety standard lowers the PEL for respirable crystalline silica to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air, averaged over an 8-hour shift (Time-weighted Average, TWA). OSHA also now requires employers to limit work access to high-exposure areas, develop a written exposure control plan, offer medical exams and information to highly exposed workers, and train workers on the risks of silica inhalation and how to limit exposure.

Respirable Silica: A Hazard Through History

The risks posed by respirable (i.e., breathable) silica dust may be one of the earliest recognized occupational hazards—it has been traced back to ancient Greeks and Romans. In the 1700s, an Italian physician “observed sand-like substances in the lungs of stone cutters.” Advances in technology, like the advent of the pneumatic drill and sandblasting techniques, exacerbated the problem in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and led to more silicosis cases.

When the rule was finalized, then-OSHA Chief David Michaels had this to say: “When this is issued, it will have a bigger impact than any regulations that OSHA has issued in the last 20 years in terms of saving lives and preventing illness.”

Effective Online OSHA Respirator Training

Be confident your employees know how to select, fit, and use respirators at your site! The Respiratory Protection online course is designed to meet OSHA’s annual training requirement for employees who use respirators at 29 CFR 1910.134.

Available 24/7, Lion’s interactive OSHA safety training courses help employees identify, mitigate, and avoid the hazards in your workplace. Employees who complete OSHA training at are ready to make on-the-job decisions that keep themselves and their co-workers safe.

Our 10 Hour OSHA General Industry course focuses on hazard identification, avoidance, and control and prevention measures and includes several modules on electrical safety.
See all OSHA courses at

Tags: 10, hour, new rules, osha, respiratory protection, safety training, silica

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