The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced a delay in enforcement of the crystalline silica standard that applies to the construction industry, officially “to conduct additional outreach and provide educational materials and guidance for employers.”

The federal announcement came out April 6th and by April 19th California’s safety agency joined with the federal program, delaying enforcement from the originally scheduled June 23rd date to September 23, 2017.

Synchronizing with Fed OSHA

In agreeing to the delay Cal/OSHAsaid:

“Cal/OSHA has decided to delay its enforcement on the respirable crystalline silica standard for construction in order to synchronize with federal OSHA’s plan.

“Employer obligations under the new Respirable Crystalline Silica standard for construction, found in Title 8 section 1532.3 of the California Code of Regulations, were scheduled to commence on June 23, 2017. However, Cal/OSHA will not enforce those obligations until September 23, 2017. This synchronizes with federal OSHA’s plan to delay enforcement of their corresponding standard.

“In contrast, unlike federal OSHA, Cal/OSHA’s new permissible exposure limit for respirable crystalline silica of 0.05 milligrams per cubic meter (0.05 mg/M3), found in Title 8 section 5155, Table AC-1, already went into effect on October 17, 2016. In addition, employers must continue to meet the requirements of Title 8 section 1530.1 to control employee exposures to dust created by operations conducted on concrete or masonry materials.”

ECA Requests Comparison

According to Cal/OSHA Chief Juliann Sum, there is little other difference between California and the federal standards, when she responded to ECA’s request for a comparison:

“Cal/OSHA’s silica standards for construction and general industry, which were adopted by the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board under Labor Code section 142.3(a)(2) and (3), are identical to federal OSHA’s silica standards except for editorial and format differences. However, the effective date of Cal/OSHA’s permissible exposure limit (PEL) for silica was in October 2016, whereas federal OSHA’s PEL for silica (which is the same as Cal/OSHA’s) will go into effect when their silica standards for construction and general industry go into effect.”

What do both standards require?

The standard requires employers to limit worker exposures to respirable crystalline silica and to take other steps to protect workers. Cal/OSHA provides guidance on their website at
//www.dir.ca.gov/dosh/etools/08-019/index.htm . The federal program also offers some advice on compliance that is available at //www.osha.gov/silica/SilicaConstructionRegText.pdf

All construction employers covered by the standard are required to:

  • Establish and implement a written exposure control plan that identifies tasks that involve exposure and methods used to protect workers, including procedures to restrict access to work areas where high exposures may occur.
  • Designate a competent person to implement the written exposure control plan.
  • Restrict housekeeping practices that expose workers to silica where feasible alternatives are available.
  • Offer medical exams—including chest X-rays and lung function tests—every three years for workers who are required by the standard to wear a respirator for 30 or more days per year.
  • Train workers on work operations that result in silica exposure and ways to limit exposure.
  • Keep records of workers’ silica exposure and medical exams.

We will keep you posted on any changes in these new rules, but as California contractors you need to get on top of this if you haven’t already, especially since you now have a bit more time to get ready.