OSHA Extends Emphasis Program to Eliminate Worker Exposure to Silica in West Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia

The Department of Labor has launched an initiative to increase focus on agency inspections to reduce worker risk of silica exposure.

On March 18, OSHA announced the extension of its emphasis program for silica exposure in West Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia. This is in an effort to identify, reduce or eliminate worker exposures to respirable crystalline silica.

The initiative extends OSHA’s National Emphasis Program (NEP) on Respirable Crystalline Silica. NEPs are temporary programs that focus on resources on particular hazards and high-hazard industries while not creating any new obligation for employers.

For all target areas (West Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia), the NEP on respirable crystalline silica will target specific industries that are expected to have the highest numbers of workers exposed to silica. It will also focus on the enforcement of two new silica standards, one for the general and maritime industries, and one for the construction industry. OSHA is conducting compliance assistance until May 3, 2020, after which inspections under the NEP will begin.

OSHA’s new silica standards for the maritime, construction and general industries could impact approximately 5,684 West Virginia workers; 5,354 workers in Delaware; and 1,675 workers in the District of Columbia.

“The goal of this NEP is to reduce or eliminate worker exposure to dangerous silica particles, and prevent the risk of workers developing serious silica-related diseases,” said OSHA Philadelphia Regional Administrator Michael Rivera.

“Respirable crystalline silica consists of small silica particles that are generated by cutting, sawing, grinding, drilling and crushing materials such as stone, rock, concrete, brick, block and mortar. Inhaling the dust created during these operations can cause silicosis, an incurable lung disease, lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.” For more information on the health effects from silica exposure, and how employers can protect workers, visit OSHA’s Safety and Health Topics webpage on Crystalline Silica.

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