New – OSHA National Emphasis Program

Today, OSHA released a revised National Emphasis Program regarding Respirable Crystalline Silica, which appears to be enforceable in 90 days.  This does not mean a company has 90 days to comply with the standard.  The standard has been enforceable since September 23, 2017 and general industry since June 23, 2018.

You may remember a December 2019 posting by SRS where 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. As a result Congress wrote OSHA 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.  In mid December 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 silicosis concern was, OSHA anticipated 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”.

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.  The program would allow OSHA to conduct RCS investigations on a work place or construction site without evidence of exposure or probable cause.  We would anticipate a minimum of 11 construction sites to be selected annually.

The news release is printed below and I have attached the NEP which includes the businesses that are targeted by this NEP.

U.S. Department of Labor Revises National Emphasis Program to Reduce or Eliminate Worker Exposure to Silica

WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has established a revised National Emphasis Program (NEP) to identify and reduce or eliminate worker exposures to respirable crystalline silica (RCS) in general industry, maritime, and construction. The NEP targets specific industries expected to have the highest numbers of workers exposed to silica, and focuses on enforcement of the new silica standards, one for general industry and maritime (29 CFR § 1910.1053) and one for construction (29 CFR § 1926.1153). These standards became effective in June 2016, and 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.

What changes were made to the NEP?

  • Revised application to the lower permissible exposure limit for respirable crystalline silica to 50 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3) as an 8-hour time-weighted average in general industry, maritime, and construction;
  • Updated list of target industries, as listed in the appendix of the NEP; from this list, area offices will develop randomized establishment lists of employers in their local jurisdictions for targeted inspections;
  • Compliance safety and health officers will refer to current enforcement guidance for RCS inspection procedures;
  • All OSHA regional and area offices must comply with this NEP, but they are not required to develop and implement corresponding regional or local emphasis programs; and
  • State Plans must participate because of the nationwide exposures to silica.

OSHA will conduct 90 days of compliance assistance for stakeholders prior to beginning programmed inspections for the NEP.

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.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to help ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education, and assistance. For more information, visit

The mission of the Department of Labor is to foster, promote, and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers, and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights.

# # #

If you need assistance in complying with this standard or would want personal air monitoring or objective date in regards to workers exposure, please contact us at your convenience.

National Emphasis Program – Respirable Crystalline Silica