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Sizable Fines Show OSHA is Serious about Silica

Nov 14, 2016
Silica Dust blog msds

Since OSHA announced its new Final Rule to protect workers from exposure to respirable crystalline silica, the agency has handed down several citations for silica dust violations involving substantial fines.

In May, a citation of $62,370 was leveled against a Wisconsin iron foundry that “overexposed three workers to silica.” According to OSHA, “One employee's exposure was determined to be more than twice the recommended time-weight allowance.”

In August, a different Wisconsin foundry was hit with $56,950 in proposed penalties for overexposing employees to respirable crystalline silica, noise, and carbon monoxide — and for failing to “implement a formaldehyde training program.”

And earlier this month, OSHA found an Ohio manufacturer culpable of several violations. As reported in a press release, “inspectors found workers exposed to air contaminants such as silica, noise and other hazards, [and the business] faces proposed OSHA penalties of $159,631.” 

What’s important to remember is that in all of these cases, these penalties were issued before enforcement for the new Final Rule began!

In the days ahead, silica dust requirements will only become more stringent. For example:

  • The silica overexposure in the first example above was calculated using the old General Industry PEL of 100 micrograms per cubic meter of air, averaged over an 8 hour shift. Under enforcement of the new Final Rule, that PEL will be lowered to half of that (50 micrograms). The PEL in the construction industry will also be lowered from 250 micrograms to 50 micrograms.
  • The iron foundry in the second example was cited for silica dust exposure, and for failing to train on formaldehyde. Under enforcement of the new Final Rule, there are new training requirements for silica dust specifically. They include ensuring employees can identify basic health hazards associated with silica, specific tasks in their workplaces where exposure can occur, and what their employer is doing to minimize exposure.
  • OSHA said the Ohio manufacturer cited this month failed to identify and evaluate their workplace’s level of silica dust. Under enforcement of the new Final Rule, strict new exposure assessment requirements for any workplace where workers may be exposed at half of the PEL (25 micrograms) will be mandated.

Remember, this all happens soon. The compliance deadline for the new Final Rule is June 23, 2017 for the construction industry, and June 23, 2018 for general industry and maritime. Hydraulic fracturing also has a compliance deadline of June 23, 2018 for most requirements, but gets a special dispensation until June 23, 2021 for engineering controls.

As these recent examples make clear, OSHA takes enforcing for silica dust violations seriously, and is prepared to levy steep financial penalties. There is every reason to believe that OSHA will be enthusiastic about enforcing for the new requirements as soon as it can.

Need some help ensuring that your workplace is ready for the requirements of the new Final Rule on Respirable Crystalline Silica? The VelocityEHS suite of solutions gives you powerful tools to help ensure compliance! The cloud-based EHS Management Platform from VelocityEHS can provide a central location from which to manage your EHS responsibilities, and document, track, and report on required information related to the rule. You can catalog and analyze employee tasks, allowing you to better demonstrate compliance, and easily access information related to the requirements. Automatic notification functions make it simple to remember when it’s time to train (or re-train), perform exposure assessments, check for medical surveillance thresholds, and more!

VelocityEHS is also offering a free, live webinar “Countdown to Compliance: The 2016 OSHA Final Rule for Respirable Crystalline Silica” on December 6, 2016 at 11am Eastern. The webinar will run for one hour. Click here for more information or to sign up.

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