Three-Month Delay Debated for OSHA Crystalline Silica Standard's Enforcement

The agency announced enforcement will now begin Sept. 23, 2017.

With OSHA having announced it will delay by three months its enforcement of the crystalline silica standard that applies to the construction industry, in order to conduct outreach and provide educational materials and guidance for employers, supporters and foes of the standard are alternately crying foul and celebrating.

Originally scheduled for June 23, 2017, OSHA's enforcement will now begin Sept. 23, 2017. The agency said it expects employers to continue to take steps either to come into compliance with new permissible exposure limit, or to implement specific dust controls for certain operations as provided in the standard. Construction employers should also continue to prepare to implement the standard's other requirements, according to OSHA.

The National Association of Home Builders, for one, praised the delay. NAHB called it a "prime example of a victory that's positively impacting builders' bottom lines," adding that its experts "determined the delay amounts to an estimated savings of $1,500 per builder, per start."

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka tweeted, "Thanks to this [delay], 160 more workers will die. Totally unacceptable."

The rule will cut the permissible exposure limit (PEL) for silica dust to 50 micrograms of silica per cubic meter of air, averaged over an eight-hour day -- a limit two to five times lower than the current PEL. Besides the June 23 date for construction companies to comply with most of the requirements, and date for general industry and maritime is June 23, 2018 and the effective date for hydraulic fracturing operations is June 23, 2018 (for all provisions except engineering controls, for which the compliance date is June 23, 2021).

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