National Emphasis Program For Respirable Crystalline Silica Proposed

OSHA is preparing a National Emphasis Program that will focus on Respirable Crystalline Silica.

In a report release in October, the Centers for Disease Control found aggressive forms of silicosis in young, previously healthy workers who cut and polished countertops made out of natural stone and engineered quartz. Some workers have died, and others will need lung transplants.

The House of Representatives Workforce Protections Subcommittee, who read the CDC report, wrote to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in October, calling for the agency to issue a new National Emphasis Program (NEP) to focus agency resources on the engineered stone countertop fabrication industry and make it easier for inspectors to target those workplaces.

On Dec. 19, OSHA informed congress that it intends to implement a new National Emphasis Program for silica that will require 2% of all OSHA inspections every year occur in workplaces at elevated risk of silica exposures.

However, instead of the countertop fabrication shops, where the original documented concern was, “OSHA anticipates that the majority of the inspections will occur in construction,” according to a description of the program provided to lawmakers, because most exposures to silica dust occur on construction sites.

The spending bill that passed this past week provide OSHA with an increase of $24 million above its 2019 level which means more money will be available for inspections and enforcement.

Data shows that in the fiscal year 2019, OSHA issued 439 citations in regards to Respirable Crystalline Silica in construction related industries.  Few, if any, silica related inspections were conducted in south Florida by the Fort Lauderdale area office since the inception of the revised standard in 2017.  If the NEP on silica is adopted, we would anticipate a minimum of 11 construction sites to be selected annually.

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