OSHA announces final rule to improve U.S. workers' protection from the dangers of respirable silica dust.
OSHA announced a final rule to improve protections for workers exposed to respirable silica dust. The rule will curb lung cancer, silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and kidney disease in America's workers by limiting their exposure to respirable crystalline silica.
"The previous exposure limits were outdated and did not adequately protect workers," said OSHA Assistant Secretary Dr. David Michaels. "Limiting exposure to silica dust is essential. Every year, many exposed workers not only lose their ability to work, but also to breathe. Today, we are taking action to bring worker protections into the 21st century in ways that are feasible and economical for employers to implement."
About 2.3 million men and women face exposure to respirable crystalline silica in their workplaces, including two million construction workers who drill and cut materials such as concrete and stone, and 300,000 workers in operations such as brick manufacturing, foundries and hydraulic fracturing. OSHA estimates that when the final rule becomes fully effective, it will save more than 600 lives annually and prevent more than 900 new cases of silicosis – an incurable and progressive disease – each year. The agency also estimates the final rule will provide net benefits of about $7.7 billion per year.
A worker cutting granite using a saw that applies water to the blade. The water reduces the amount of silica-containing dust that gets into the air.
Most employers can limit harmful dust exposure by using equipment that is widely available – generally using water to keep dust from getting into the air or a ventilation system to remove it from the air. The rule provides greater compliance assistance to construction employers – many of which run small businesses – by including a table of specified controls they can follow to be in compliance. The rule also staggers compliance dates to ensure employers have sufficient time to meet its requirements.
The final rule is written as two standards, one for construction and one for general industry and maritime. In addition to reducing the permissible exposure limit for crystalline silica, the rule includes employer requirements such as limiting worker exposure through work practices and engineering controls (such as water or ventilation); providing respiratory protection when controls are insufficient; training workers; limiting their access to high exposure areas and providing medical exams to highly exposed workers.
Reduces the permissible exposure limit (PEL) for respirable crystalline silica to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air, averaged over an 8-hour shift.
- Requires employers to: use engineering controls (such as water or ventilation) to limit worker exposure to the PEL; provide respirators when engineering controls cannot adequately limit exposure; limit worker access to high exposure areas; develop a written exposure control plan, offer medical exams to highly exposed workers, and train workers on silica risks and how to limit exposures.
Provides medical exams to monitor highly exposed workers and gives them information about their lung health.
Provides flexibility to help employers — especially small businesses — protect workers from silica exposure.
Both standards contained in the final rule take effect on June 23, 2016., after which industries have one to five years to comply with most requirements, based on the following schedule:
Construction - June 23, 2017, one year after the effective date.
General Industry and Maritime - June 23, 2018, two years after the effective date.
Hydraulic Fracturing - June 23, 2018, two years after the effective date for all provisions except Engineering Controls, which have a compliance date of June 23, 2021.
For more information, see the news release—available in English and Spanish—and a blog post by U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez, which includes a video featuring one worker's personal experience with silicosis. Visit OSHA's silica rule webpage for factsheets, answers to frequently asked questions, and to sign up for email updates on compliance dates and resources.
OSHA emphasizes need to reduce illness, injury among meat and poultry processors in three Midwestern states
Workers involved in the meat and poultry processing industries are likely to suffer more serious on-the-job injuries than other private sector workers.
OSHA launched a Regional Emphasis Program in Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri focused on reducing musculoskeletal disorders and ergonomic stressors in the poultry processing industry. The agency has also launched a Local Emphasis Program for Nebraska's meat processing industry. Education and enforcement efforts will focus on common industry hazards such as repetitive motion injuries, machine guarding, control of hazardous energy and process safety management. Both emphasis programs are scheduled to end Sept. 30, 2016.
Regional and local emphasis programs are enforcement strategies designed to address high-risk industries
Evaluation: First year of OSHA injury reporting requirement helps agency engage with employers and focus resources where needed.
During the first full year of a new reporting requirement, employers reported 10,388 severe injuries, including 7,636 hospitalizations and 2,644 amputations. For more statistics and the evaluation of the impact of the new requirements, see the full report*.
In the majority of cases, OSHA asked employers to conduct their own incident investigations and propose remedies to prevent future injuries. OSHA provided employers with guidance materials to assist them in this process. Known as a Rapid Response Investigation, this collaborative, problem-solving approach invites the employer and an area OSHA expert to work together toward the shared goal of fixing hazards and improving overall workplace safety. At other times, the agency determined that the hazards described warranted a worksite inspection.
"In case after case, the prompt reporting of worker injuries has created opportunities for us to work with employers we wouldn't have had contact with otherwise," said report author David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. "The result is safer workplaces for thousands of workers." Read Dr. Michaels' blog for examples of workplace safety success stories that resulted from collaboration between employers and OSHA.
An evaluation of 2015 results found that the requirement met its intended goals of helping OSHA focus resources where they are most needed, and engaging employers in high-hazard industries to identify and eliminate hazards.
"OSHA will continue to evaluate the program and make changes to improve its effectiveness," Dr. Michaels wrote in the report. "And we are seeking new ways to make sure that small employers know about their reporting obligations and the resources available to them.".