OSHA Revises National Emphasis Program to Reduce or Eliminate Worker Exposure to Silica
On February 4, OSHA issued a revised National Emphasis Program (NEP) that is intended to reduce worker exposures to respirable crystalline silica (RCS) in construction, general industry, and maritime. The NEP targets specific industries and work practices expected to have the highest numbers of workers exposed to silica, and focuses on enforcement of the new silica standards, one for construction (29 CFR § 1926.1153) and one for general industry and maritime (29 CFR § 1910.1053). Construction employers were required to begin complying with their standard as of September 23, 2017, and general industry and maritime employers were required to begin complying with their standard as of June 23, 2018.
The new NEP includes an updated list of target industries in the appendices of the notice. For construction, the notice also lists the following construction activities as ones that Area Offices should target at construction work sites because of the exposures they create to respirable crystalline silica. They include:
- Drywall finishing;
- Masonry, concrete, or fiber-cement board cutting using portable saws, walk-behind saws, drivable or ride-on saws, rig-mounts core saws and drills, or stationary saws;
- Heavy equipment operations (excavating, grading, abrading, or fracturing silica containing materials, or demolishing concrete or masonry structures);
- Concrete and masonry hole drilling using handheld or stand-mounted drills;
- Jackhammering and powered, handheld, chipping of concrete and masonry;
- Abrasive blasting; and
- Tuckpointing and grinding using handheld grinders for mortar removal.
All OSHA regional and area offices must comply with this NEP, but they are not required to develop and implement corresponding regional or local emphasis programs. State Plans jurisdictions must participate because of the nationwide exposures to silica.
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