OSHA’s NEW Crystalline Silica Rule for Construction

Is your Company Prepared?

Construction employers must comply with all requirements of the standard by September 23, 2017.

OSHA has issued a new standard to protect workers from exposure to respirable crystalline silica in order to allow employers to tailor solutions to the specific conditions in their workplaces.  About two million construction workers are exposed to respirable crystalline silica in over 600,000 workplaces. OSHA estimates that more than 840,000 of these workers are exposed to silica levels that exceed the new permissible exposure limit (PEL).

The construction standard does not apply where exposures will remain low under any foreseeable conditions; for example, when only performing tasks such as mixing mortar; pouring concrete footers, slab foundation and foundation walls, and removing concrete formwork.

The standard requires employers to limit worker exposures to respirable crystalline silica and to take other steps to protect workers. It provides flexible alternatives, especially useful for small employers. Employers can either use a control method laid out in Table 1 of the construction standard, or they can measure workers’ exposure to silica and independently decide which dust controls work best to limit exposures to the PEL in their workplaces. You can view a complete version of Table 1 at https://www.osha.gov/silica/SilicaConstructionRegText.pdf

Regardless of which exposure control method is used, all construction employers covered by the standard are required to:

·Establish and implement a written exposure control plan that identifies tasks that involve  exposure and methods used to protect workers, including procedures to restrict access to work  areas where high exposures may occur.

·Designate a competent person to implement the written exposure control plan.

·Restrict housekeeping practices that expose workers where feasible alternatives are                available.

·Offer medical exams every three years for workers who are required by the standard to wear    a respirator for 30 or more days per year.

·Train workers on work operations that result in silica exposure and ways to limit exposure.

·Keep records of workers’ silica exposure and medical exams.


Table 1 matches common construction tasks with dust control methods, so employers know exactly what they need to do to limit worker exposures to silica. The dust control measures listed in the table include methods known to be effective, like using water to keep dust from getting into the air or using ventilation to capture dust. In some operations, respirators may also be needed. Employers who follow Table 1 correctly are not required to measure workers’ exposure to silica and are not subject to the PEL.

Alternative exposure control methods

Employers who do not use control methods on Table 1 must:

  • Measure the amount of silica that workers are exposed to if it may be at or above an action level of 25 μg/m3 (micrograms of silica per cubic meter of air), averaged over an eight-hour day.
  • Protect workers from respirable crystalline silica exposures above the permissible exposure limit of 50 μg/m3, averaged over an eight-hour day.
  • Use dust controls to protect workers from silica exposures above the PEL.
  • Provide respirators to workers when dust controls cannot limit exposures to the PEL.