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Latest Updates to OSHA’s Silica and Beryllium Rules

Posted on July 6, 2018

The last few weeks have seen several anticipated changes to new OSHA rules. Here are the latest updates for crystalline silica and beryllium.

Silica: Interim enforcement guidance issued for general industry and maritime

On June 25, OSHA issued an interim enforcement guidance for the silica dust standard for general industry and maritime. Most of the standard’s requirements became enforceable two days earlier, on June 23, with the exception of certain requirements related to hydraulic fracturing and medical surveillance. The interim guidance will be in force until an official compliance directive is issued.

Summary of the “Housekeeping Practices” section

  • Dry sweeping and dry brushing are prohibited unless wet sweeping, HEPA-filtered vacuuming, or other methods that minimize the likelihood of silica exposure are not feasible. The employer bears the burden of showing that the alternative methods are not feasible.
  • Sweeping compounds are acceptable as long as the compounds don’t create additional exposures.
  • Compressed air is not allowed for cleaning unless used in conjunction with a ventilation system or no alternative method is feasible.
  • If drivable powered industrial sweepers are equipped with HEPA filters, they are considered “HEPA-filtered vacuuming.”

Inspection process

  • Review the employer’s written exposure control plan.
  • Interview and/or observe employees who are cleaning up dust.
  • If necessary, collect a bulk sample and/or personal air samples to document that the dust contains crystalline silica.

Citations will be issued where:

  • An employer allows dry sweeping or dry brushing even though the employer can’t demonstrate that the preferred methods aren’t feasible.
  • An employer allows the use of compressed air without a ventilation system or the employer can’t demonstrate that the preferred methods aren’t feasible.

For details on other sections of the standard, read the whole memo.

Beryllium: Amendments in effect, certain provisions delayed

On May 4, OSHA issued a new final rule that updated the definitions of “beryllium work area,” “emergency,” “skin contact,” and “contamination.” The agency also clarified that most of the requirements apply to materials containing at least 0.1% beryllium by weight.

On May 11, some provisions of the beryllium standard became enforceable:

  • General industry: PEL, exposure assessment, respiratory protection, medical surveillance, and medical removal
  • Construction: PEL only
  • Shipyard: PEL only

In a July 3 memo, OSHA announced an enforcement delay for requirements including beryllium work areas, regulated work areas, methods of compliance, personal protective clothing and equipment, hygiene areas and practices, housekeeping, communication of hazards, and recordkeeping. These requirements will now be enforceable as of August 9.

OSHA has proposed to move the compliance date for the remaining requirements to December 12.

If you haven’t initiated your compliance efforts yet, these delays give you some reprieve. But not much — August 9 is right around the corner! For an industrial hygienist’s perspective on the beryllium standard and how to comply, check out our recent interview with Tom Anthos, president of TriMedia Environmental & Engineering.