We have lived under the same OSHA regulations on silica exposure for 45 years, but all that changes this weekend when the agency begins enforcing its new silica rules. The first phase will apply to the construction industry, with general industry, maritime and fracking operations falling into place next June.
The rule has had a long and confusing history. The construction piece was supposed to go into effect in June. OSHA officials delayed that deadline until September 23rd to give industry more time to comply. It appears clear that there will be no more delays and companies involved in construction will be required to at least make a good faith effort to comply. For a full explanation of what construction companies need to do to meet the rule, click on OSHA’s information page here.
How OSHA will enforce the silica rule – There is a report from the law firm Jackson Lewis PC that OSHA’s acting director has sent a memo to field offices outlining the enforcement plans. According to the report, OSHA will not write citations on companies for the next 30 days as long as the company is making a “good faith” effort to comply. How can a company prove good faith? One factor that may help is to go through what is referred to as “Table 1” of the regulations to make sure your company is complying. If there are sections that you cannot comply with, document why and what steps you are taking to protect workers. Note that the delay in writing citations only applies if the company can show it is trying to comply, but for some clear reason cannot fully meet the requirement.
Need help coming into compliance and making sure your safety program documents the change? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The silica rule could still change – On a separate track, a number of industry groups have sued OSHA to throw out or modify the rule. There will be a hearing on Sept. 26 before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals on the case. That is not expected to produce quick action on the case, but it is a clear signal that the rule is not cast in stone.