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January 30, 2014
OSHA extends comment period for proposed silica rule again

On January 24, OSHA announced its second extension of the comment period for its proposed rule on exposure to respirable crystalline silica. Now, interested parties who wish to submit written comments or testimony in response to the proposed regulation have until February 11, 2014, to do so.

Previously, the deadline was set at January 27, 2014. The January 27 deadline was also an extension; the original comment end date was December 11, 2013. Public hearings on the proposed rule are set to begin March 18, 2014.

OSHA states that the latest extension was granted due to concerns about an error on, the federal government’s online portal for submitting rulemaking comments.

OSHA’s silica proposal would reduce the permissible exposure limit (PEL) for all industries to 50 micrograms of respirable crystalline silica per cubic meter of air, averaged over an 8-hour day. In addition, the proposal includes provisions for:

  • Measuring workers’ silica exposure;
  • Limiting workers’ access to areas where silica exposures are high;
  • Using effective methods for reducing exposures, including engineering and/or work practice controls;
  • Providing medical exams to workers with high silica exposures; and
  • Training workers about the hazards of silica and how to limit exposure.

The proposal would create two separate standards, one for general industry and maritime and the other for construction. Though the PEL would be the same for both standards, their methods of achieving compliance would differ. OSHA says the separate standards are intended to give employers flexibility in protecting their workers in a way that best reflects the conditions at their specific facilities.

While OSHA claims that the proposal will save 700 lives and prevent 1600 new cases of silicosis per year, some have expressed concerns. In a public web chat on January 14, participants questioned whether the technology exists to accurately measure silica concentrations at the proposed action level, expressed concerns about the cost of compliance, and inquired about the proposed requirements for implementing the hierarchy of controls, among other queries.

What do you think? To submit a comment on the proposed rule, visit!docketDetail;D=OSHA-2010-0034 and click the “Comment Now!” button.

For more information on OSHA’s proposed silica rule, see BLR’s Silica Exposure resource center.

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