- After 30 days of compliance assistance for its revised silica rule, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is now fully enforcing the measure's finalized provisions.
- The agency has released interim enforcement guidelines for the rule, counseling construction companies and regional administrators on its set requirements while the final compliance directive moves through the review process.
- The OSHA memorandum also provides inspection and citation guidance, in addition to charts for assessing employers' efforts to control workers' exposure to silica.
The silica rule has been long in coming for many industry groups on both sides of the aisle. While many have pushed for tighter enforcement of the rule, others have railed against the OSHA revision, arguing against the need for stricter guidelines. Last month, industry plaintiffs brought their case to a federal appeals court where they were met with skepticism by a panel of judges who told the groups it would be difficult to prove OSHA did not offer adequate evidence to warrant the rule, Reuters reported.
Although some critics have cited cost as a burden for complying with the new enforcement standards, other companies have taken steps to comply with the revised rule. Equipment manufacturers, too, have responded to the rule by adding more products to capture the dust.
Industry-wide rebuke of the new standard may not have gained the traction it needed to undo the rule successfully, but it did bide construction companies more time to prepare for its implementation. OSHA delayed the rule's effective date by a full 90 days to give the agency time to offer more substantive guidance on the new construction standard. When the rule did go into effect on Sept. 23, OSHA allowed companies another 30-day grace period before it would issue fines and citations, so long as those companies were making a good-faith effort to meet the new regulation's requirements.
While contractors continue to take steps toward adhering to those guidelines, many will have to navigate those requirements without step-by-step instructions. Although each job site is different and, by virtue, may present its own set of challenges when it comes to the rule's implementation, contractors would do well to seek out assistance from OSHA itself and from trade associations like the Associated General Contractors of America to steer clear of potential violations.