An estimated 2.3 million workers are exposed to respirable crystalline silica in the workplace. Breathing silica dust can lead to lung cancer, silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and kidney disease. In an effort to protect workers from silica-related health issues, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued a final rule to limit workers’ exposure to respirable crystalline silica, building on the initial standards that were set in 1971.

The rule became effective on June 23, 2016, however enforcement for the construction standard under this rule has been delayed until September 23, 2017, in order to allow for additional training and outreach.

The new silica standard will require many contractors to take a different approach when performing tasks that produce silica dust. This includes limiting exposure to respirable crystalline silica, using engineering controls such as water or ventilation, and providing respirators when engineering controls can’t adequately limit exposure, to name a few.

In order to comply with the silica standard, it’s crucial for contractors to proactively educate work crews, purchase the needed equipment, and begin making the necessary changes to work practices in advance of the September enforcement date.

Read more about the standard and its provisions.