The department set standards to limit worker exposure in 1971, when OSHA was created, but the department says the standards are outdated did not include new industries such as stone or artificial stone countertop fabrication and hydraulic fracturing.
- 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.
OSHA says a full review of scientific evidence, industry consensus standards, and extensive stakeholder input provide the basis for the final rule, which was proposed in September 2013. The rule-making process allowed OSHA to solicit input in various forms for nearly a full year. The agency held 14 days of public hearings, during which more than 200 stakeholders presented testimony, after which OSHA says it made substantial changes, including enhanced employer flexibility in choosing how to reduce levels of respirable crystalline silica, while maintaining or improving worker protection.
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