OSHA Introduces New National Emphasis Program for Respirable Crystalline Silica

Effective Feb. 4, OSHA has revived its National Emphasis Program on respirable crystalline silica for general industry, maritime and construction to “identify and reduce or eliminate” silica-related hazards.

OSHA canceled the NEP on Oct. 26, 2017 – about a month after construction employers were required to comply with the agency’s silica standard and eight months before general industry and maritime employers were required to comply. The program initially launched Jan. 24, 2008.

The revived NEP includes an updated list of target industries as detailed in Appendices A and B of an OSHA instructional memo issued Feb. 4. Using this list, OSHA area offices will generate randomized lists of covered establishments under their jurisdictions for targeted inspections.

According to a Feb. 5 agency press release, OSHA is implementing a 90-day period of compliance assistance before targeted inspections begin. State Plans and OSHA regional and area offices must participate in the NEP, but area and regional offices are not required to implement corresponding regional or local emphasis programs on silica.

Particles of respirable crystalline silica typically are released into the air during cutting, crushing, drilling, grinding and sawing materials such as bricks, cinder blocks, mortar, stone and rock. One of the most common forms of silica dust is quartz.

Inhaling respirable crystalline silica can lead to lung disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or silicosis. OSHA estimates that 2.3 million workers are exposed to silica dust every year. The silica standards lower the permissible exposure limit to 50 micrograms per cubic meter averaged over an 8-hour period.

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Source: NSC Safety and Health Magazine