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OSHA Puts Silica on 2016 Rule List

Monday, January 4, 2016

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A final rule on silica exposure topped the list of health and safety rules that might affect the coatings and construction industries in 2016.

As 2015 came to a close, beryllium and record-keeping also were among those on the horizon—but not final yet.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently announced the status of several regulatory actions that could affect the coatings and construction industries during the New Year. Those actions were part of the list that the Department of Labor recently released in its Fall 2015 agenda.

The semi-annual list includes rules on which OSHA intended to take some kind of action by the end of 2015 and those that were expected to see a status update in 2016. A few of those rules will affect the coatings or construction industries more than others, while some will have little to no impact on those who work in those fields.

Durability+Design evaluated the list for those rules that are likely to have a greater impact on its readers and pulled them out into the following report.


OSHA expects its long-awaited rule on crystalline silica to become final in March. The agency sent its proposed rule to the Obama Administration last month.

OSHA breaks up its regulatory action into three categories: Prerule Stage; Proposed Rule Stage; and Final Rule Stage. Only one rule that the agency plans to implement this year is more specific for those who work with coatings or building materials. A few others could be finalized in 2016 and some—which have been on the agency’s long-term plan for years—may see their first action this year.

Final Rulemaking

Occupational Exposure to Crystalline Silica—The long-awaited changes to silica exposure are expected to become a final rule in March. As previously reported, the new Occupational Exposure to Crystalline Silica rule includes two separate standards—one for general industry and maritime employment, and one for construction—that would have widespread impact on the industrial coating; commercial coating; and abrasive-blasting industries.

According to The Hill, the Department of Labor sent the final rule to the Obama Administration on Dec. 21. The White House’s Office of Management and Budget has 90 days to review the new standards.

If approved, the new rule would limit worker exposure to a Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) of 50 micrograms of respirable crystalline silica per cubic meter of air, averaged over an eight-hour day—a sharp reduction from the current limits.

© / shime02

The new rule is not expected to affect the coatings industry (which is covered under other standards), but OSHA is expected to review comments and schedule rulemaking this year on berylium exposure.

The agency has also proposed an action level of 25 micrograms/m3, which would trigger the proposed rule’s exposure monitoring provisions.

Proposed Rule Stage

Occupational Exposure to Beryllium—This rule that would reduce worker exposure to beryllium also has been expected for a long time. Although as previously reported it would not affect the construction, abrasive blasting or maritime industries, OSHA has said those who work in those industries already are covered by other regulations.

The agency was expected to analyze comments on the rule by the end of December. A timeline for the final rule was expected to be set early this year.

Clarification of Employer’s Continuing Obligation to Make and Maintain Accurate Records of Each Recordable Injury and Illness—As with the rule on beryllium, analysis of comments was supposed to wrap up by the end of 2015 and OSHA was supposed to set a final rule timeline. That didn’t happen, but this rule has been particularly controversial.

As previously reported, the rule was made to work around the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit’s decision in AKM, LLC dba Volks Constructors v. Secretary of Labor. The court rejected OSHA’s efforts to extend the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970’s six-month statute of limitations.

© / mumininan

OSHA is attempting to clarify its rules on injuries and illness reporting after its current regulations were thrown out in court. The agency is expected to review comments early this year.

Although the new rule does not change those compliance obligations, it attempts to clarify the language in the act so that the agency's intent would be conveyed and to ensure proper implementation.

Pre-Rule Process

Other rules are expected see their first steps this year. They include:

  • Combustible dust for general industry—OSHA expects to conduct a review in August of this proposed rule under the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA). According to OSHA, The Chemical Safety Board completed a study of combustible dust hazards in late 2006, which identified 281 combustible dust incidents between 1980 and 2005 that killed 119 workers and injured another 718. Based on these findings, the CSB recommended the Agency pursue a rulemaking on this issue. As previously reported in 2014, the agency listed this rule on its long-term plans with an “indefinite” delay.
  • Chemical Management and Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs)—The comment period on this rule to update PELs for a variety of chemicals—some of which would affect the coatings and construction industry—ended in October 2015. OSHA was expected to review comments by April. As previously reported in 2014, OSHA attempted to update or set new PELS for more than 350 chemicals in a single rulemaking in 1989. Although the agency presented analyses of the risks associated with these chemicals, as well as the feasibility and economic impacts, the analyses were not as detailed as those for individual rulemakings. The entire rulemaking was ultimately vacated by the court.


Tagged categories: Accidents; Beryllium; Combustible Dust; Construction chemicals; Department of Labor; Ethics; Fatalities; Good Technical Practice; Health and safety; North America; OSHA; OSHA; Respirators; Respiratory Protection Standard; Scaffolding; Silica

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