September 17, 2013
Federal OSHA officially published its long-awaited Notice of Propose Rulemaking on silica in the Sept. 12 issue of the Federal Register. The notice now gives the public 90 days to submit written comments (the comment period ends Dec 11, 2013), followed by public hearings. The first informal public hearing on the rule is scheduled for March 4 in Washington, D.C.
The proposed rulemaking includes two separate standards – one for general industry and maritime employment, and one for construction.
The proposed rulemaking would set a permissible exposure limit of 50 micrograms of respirable crystalline silica per cubic meter of air. Currently, two different PELs are in force: 100 micrograms for general industry and 250 for construction and shipyards. The current levels, adopted in 1971, have never been updated.
The proposal would also require employers to monitor the airborne concentration of silica in the workplace, unless they can prove there is no silica released above 25 micrograms per cubic meter of air. Exemptions to the monitoring requirements are provided for construction companies if specific control methods are used.
Under the proposal, workers exposed to silica at or above the PEL for at least 30 days per year must have medical surveillance and employers must limit worker exposure by establishing regulated areas with limited access or written access-control plans.
Comments on the proposed rulemaking can be submitted to the OSHA Docket Office in writing, online, or by fax. See the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for more information.
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