Release of OSHA's Proposed Rule on Crystalline Silica Is Nearing

After years of delay in the White House's Office of Management and Budget, the construction industry will likely see OSHA's plans for silica dust exposure very soon

The July 11 issue of the American Subcontractors Association's "ASA Today" included a news piece stating that OSHA is expected to take action by the end of this year on at least 10 rules that will affect construction subcontractors. One of these issues is a proposed rule on crystalline silica, which ASA expects OSHA will publish by the end of this month.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reports 1.7 million U.S. workers are exposed to respirable crystalline silica each year, through activities like sawing, drilling, cutting and grinding concrete, brick and stone. Prolonged exposure to this dust can lead to an incurable lung disease call silicosis.

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This proposed rule on crystalline silica is expected to tighten workers' permissible exposure limits (PELs) to silica dust on the job and require control methods like wet cutting. Contractors rarely take news of new regulations with a smile, but in this case regulations will work to improve worker safety and health. OSHA hasn't update its rule on silica dust since the early 1970s. Hopefully this proposed rule on crystalline silica will reflect the last four decades worth of health and science reasearch on silocosis and modernize this outdated safety regulation.