On August 23, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released its long anticipated proposal to reduce occupational exposures to respirable crystalline silica. Although mining facilities are not regulated by OSHA, the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has stated its intent to issue a similar proposal for the mining industry later this year.
OSHA is proposing a 50 percent reduction in the current Permissible Exposure Limit – to 50 micrograms of silica per cubic meter of workplace air – and an Action Level of 25 micrograms. The proposal also includes requirements for initial and periodic exposure assessments, regulated and restricted work areas, engineering and work practice exposure controls, respiratory protection, employee medical surveillance, employee training and recordkeeping. There will be a 90-day public comment period following publication of the proposal in the Federal Register.