Last month, OSHA established a revised National Emphasis Program (NEP) to reduce occupational exposure to respirable crystalline silica in general industry, maritime, and construction. The agency will use a combination of inspection targeting, outreach to employers, and compliance assistance to accomplish this goal.
OSHA canceled its previous silica NEP in 2017. The new one focuses on enforcement of the new silica standards, which came into effect in June 2016. 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.
We’ve written extensively about these standards on this blog and in industry publications. Here are some of our most popular articles:
- A Quick Overview of OSHA’s Silica Dust Rule for General Industry and Maritime
- Three Dangerous Misconceptions Surrounding OSHA’s Silica Dust Standard for General Industry
- Q&A: Silica Dust Compliance for General Industry
- Q&A: Silica Dust Compliance for the Construction Industry
Changes in the revised NEP
The revised NEP contains several significant changes:
- Lower exposure thresholds. Previously, the 8-hour time-weighted averages (TWA) were approximately 100 µg/m3 for general industry and 250 µg/m3 for construction and shipyards. The new standards set an 8-hour TWA of 50 µg/m3 for general industry, construction, and maritime.
- An updated list of target industries. Target industries are listed in Appendix A of the NEP, and supplemental industries are in Appendix B.
- New enforcement guidance for inspection procedures. The NEP refers compliance safety and health officers (CSHOs) to current enforcement guidance.
- Mandatory State Plan participation. All OSHA State Plans must participate in the NEP because of the prevalence of silica exposure nationwide.
- Required compliance for Area and Regional Offices. These offices must comply with the NEP, but they aren’t required to develop their own emphasis programs.
- Outreach programs. Area Offices must conduct 3 months of outreach before initiating NEP-related inspections.
OSHA will conduct 90 days of compliance assistance before beginning NEP-related inspections. Once inspections begin, 2% of each region’s annual inspections must target silica dust. Although the inspections must represent the distribution of industries across the region, OSHA expects the majority of them will occur on construction worksites.
If you have any questions about the new silica standards or the NEP, now’s the time to contact your local OSHA office. To learn about the equipment that will help you control silica dust in your facility, check out our article: Top 11 Floor Cleaning Solutions for Silica Dust Applications. We’re still within the compliance assistance phase, so the sooner you get started, the better!