Enforcement and Inspection

OSHA Issues Enforcement Memo on the Respirable Silica Standard

Partial enforcement of OSHA’s new respirable silica standard for the construction industry began in late September 2017. After a 30-day period of providing compliance assistance in lieu of enforcement, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) began full enforcement of the standard on October 23, 2017. OSHA issued an interim enforcement guidance document for the standard on October 19, 2017.

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Yesterday, we looked at the exemptions that are available in the standard. Today, we’ll look at the enforcement guidance applicable to employers who are subject to all requirements of the standard. If OSHA’s Compliance Safety and Health Officers (CSHOs) show up in your workplace, they’ll be doing testing, looking at your written programs, and interviewing your employees.

Testing, Testing …

Under OSHA’s enforcement guidance, CSHOs must be prepared to collect breathing zone samples from exposed employees on the first day of any inspection. You should have already assessed the exposure of each employee who is or may be potentially exposed to respirable crystalline silica at or above the action level of 25 micrograms/cubic meter of air as an 8-hour time-weighted average (TWA) yourself. Be aware that the CSHOs may ask whether you have done so, and that they may ask to review the assessment before entering the work area to determine what exposure levels to expect.

It’s a good idea, if you can, to collect samples of your own alongside the inspector’s samples. Employers have saved themselves from citations arising from laboratory errors, chain-of-custody mishandling, and other inaccuracies by conducting their own side-by-side sampling.

In Writing

Once they have set up their samples, the CSHO will ask to review your written silica Exposure Control Plan (ECP), as well as any other relevant programs. For example, if as part of your exposure control plan workers wear respirators, the CSHO will want to review your respiratory protection program.

If workers are or may be exposed above the action level, you must include respirable crystalline silica in your hazard communication program, so the CSHO will ask to see your hazard communication program. As part of your hazard communication program, you must ensure that employees have access to labels on containers of crystalline silica and related safety data sheets and provide training as specified in both the hazard communication standard and the respirable crystalline silica standard.

Your competent person should make frequent and regular inspections of jobsites, materials, and equipment for the purpose of implementing the written ECP. You are not required to list the name of your competent person in your ECP because it could change daily. However, your employees must be able to identify the designated competent person.

Interviews

You can expect the CSHO to interview affected employees, including the competent person, as part of their overall assessment of your exposure control plan implementation.

The competent person must be:

  • Capable of identifying existing and foreseeable respirable crystalline silica hazards;
  • Authorized to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate or minimize identified hazards; and
  • Knowledgeable and able to fulfill all of the competent person’s responsibilities.
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