OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards and regulations. Our interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. Note that our enforcement guidance may be affected by changes to OSHA rules. Also, from time to time we update our guidance in response to new information. To keep apprised of such developments, you can consult OSHA's website at http://www.osha.gov.

June 25, 2018

MEMORANDUM FOR:
REGIONAL ADMINISTRATORS
STATE DESIGNEES
THROUGH:
GALEN BLANTON
Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary
FROM:
THOMAS GALASSI, Director
Directorate of Enforcement Programs
SUBJECT:
Interim Enforcement Guidance for the Respirable Crystalline Silica in General Industry/Maritime standard, 29 CFR 1910.1053 – June 23, 2018, Enforcement Date

This memorandum provides interim enforcement guidance to compliance safety and health officers (CSHOs) for enforcing 29 CFR 1910.1053, Respirable Crystalline Silica.  The Respirable Crystalline Silica standard for general industry and maritime established a new 8-hour, time-weighted average (TWA) permissible exposure limit (PEL) of 50 micrograms per cubic meter (μg/m³), and an action level (AL) of 25 μg/m³.  It also requires other employee protections, such as performing exposure assessments, using exposure control methods, using respiratory protection, establishing regulated areas, developing and implementing a written exposure control plan, offering medical surveillance, developing hazard communication information, and keeping silica-related records.

As you know, the final rule, published March 25, 2016, established two new standards, 29 CFR 1926.1153 for construction, and 29 CFR 1910.1053 for general industry and maritime.  Under the construction standard, all the requirements became enforceable on September 23, 2017, except for the requirements for sample analysis in 29 CFR 1926.1153(d)(2)(v), which went into force on June 23, 2018.  The majority of the requirements for general industry and maritime, except for certain requirements relating to hydraulic fracturing operations and an AL trigger for medical surveillance requirements, became enforceable on June 23, 2018.

This memorandum will serve as interim enforcement guidance for the general industry and maritime standard.  It is similar to the memorandum issued on October 19, 2017, which provides interim enforcement guidance for the construction standard.  Both of these memorandums will expire when the compliance directive becomes effective and available to the field.  

The attached interim inspection and citation guidance highlights most of the requirements of 29 CFR 1910.1053.  If you have any questions about the attached guidance or any of the provisions not covered in the interim enforcement guidance, please contact Audrey Profitt or Sven Rundman in the Office of Health Enforcement at 202-693-2190.

Attachment

Attachment: Enforcement Guidance

Overview:

The final rule on Occupational Exposure to Respirable Crystalline Silica, published March 25, 2016, established two new standards, 29 CFR 1926.1153 for construction, and 29 CFR 1910.1053 for general industry and maritime.[1]  This guidance covers the general industry and maritime standard, the majority of which became enforceable on June 23, 2018.  Note that for the first 30 days (through July 23, 2018), compliance assistance will be offered in lieu of enforcement for employers who are making good faith efforts to comply with the new standard’s requirements.

The general industry and maritime standard establishes a new 8-hour, time-weighted average (TWA) permissible exposure limit (PEL) of 50 micrograms per cubic meter (μg/m³), and an action level (AL) of 25 μg/m³.  It also requires other employee protections, such as performing exposure assessments, using exposure control methods, using respiratory protection, establishing regulated areas, developing and implementing a written exposure control plan, offering medical surveillance, developing hazard communication information, and keeping silica-related records.

Scope (§1910.1053(a)):

The standard for general industry and maritime, 29 CFR 1910.1053, applies to all occupational exposures to respirable crystalline silica, except the following:

  • Construction work.
  • Exposures that result from the processing of sorptive clays.
  • Agricultural operations.
  • Where the employer has objective data demonstrating that employee exposure to respirable crystalline silica will remain below 25 μg/m³ as an 8-hour TWA under any foreseeable conditions.

Note:  The last exception listed above (i.e., the exception related to employee exposure levels) is based on total respirable crystalline silica exposures from all sources and must take into account all conditions that may add or contribute to the employee’s overall exposure level.  When using the phrase “any foreseeable conditions,” OSHA is referring to situations that can reasonably be anticipated.  Coverage under the standard is determined without regard to the use of engineering controls as the failure of engineering controls is generally foreseeable.  Although engineering controls are usually a reliable means for controlling employee exposures, equipment does occasionally fail.  Therefore, this exception does not apply where exposures below 25 μg/m³ as an 8-hour TWA are expected or achieved only because engineering or other controls are being used to limit exposures. 

Where an employer claims exclusion from the standard on the basis of objective data, sufficiency will be determined by evaluating whether the data meet the following conditions:

  • The data must demonstrate employee exposure to respirable crystalline silica associated with a particular product or material or a specific process, task, or activity.
  • The data must demonstrate that employee exposure will remain below 25 μg/m³ as an 8-hour TWA under any foreseeable conditions.
  • The data must reflect workplace conditions closely resembling, or with a higher exposure potential than, the processes, types of material, control methods, work practices, and environmental conditions in the employer's current operations.

The standard also allows general industry and maritime employers to comply with the construction standard instead of the general industry and maritime standard, in certain circumstances.  Specifically, the standard exempts general industry and maritime employers from the standard if all the following conditions are met:

  • The employer complies with all the applicable provisions of the construction standard (§ 1926.1153).
  • The task performed is indistinguishable from a construction task listed in Table 1-Specified Exposure Control Methods (paragraph (c) of §1926.1153). Indistinguishable tasks are those tasks that are performed primarily during maintenance and repair activities in general industry or maritime settings, and involve an activity described in the construction standard’s Table 1.  These tasks have to be of the same nature and type as the construction tasks.
  • The task will not be performed regularly in the same environment and conditions. This exception is intended for situations where the tasks will be performed in different environments and conditions, rather than in a stable and predictable environment.

Note 1: This exemption applies by task.  In other words, an employer who is following the construction standard for a task that meets the criteria described above must continue to follow the standard for general industry and maritime for other tasks covered under the standard unless the other tasks also meet the criteria. 

Note 2: The exemption requires employers to comply with all the applicable provisions of the construction standard.  If the employer fails to comply with an applicable provision, or if the task does not meet the other criteria described above, the exemption does not apply and the CSHO should assess compliance under the general industry and maritime standard.

Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL)-(§1910.1053(c)):

  • Establishes an 8-hour TWA PEL of 50 μg/m³.  Employers must ensure that no employee is exposed to an airborne concentration of respirable crystalline silica above that PEL. 

Inspection and Citation Guidance

  • Review the employer’s written exposure control plan (ECP) to determine which tasks in the employer’s workplace involve exposure to respirable crystalline silica and which engineering controls and work practices the employer planned to implement to limit employee exposure during each listed task.
  • Review the employer’s exposure records or other data the employer used to assess exposures to determine what exposure levels might be expected before entering the work area. 
  • If the employer’s air monitoring records indicate overexposures, obtain copies of the employer’s exposure data for the case file.
  • Collect personal samples to measure the 8-hour TWA for the silica operations likely to exceed the PEL. 
    • Perform air monitoring in accordance with the OSHA Technical Manual (OTM), Section II, Chapter 1, and OSHA sampling method ID-142. 
  • Cite for exposures above the PEL as follows:
    • If employee exposure is above the 8-hour TWA PEL, cite §1910.1053(c).
    • Deficiencies in any of the requirements for engineering and work practice controls and respiratory protection must follow the citation procedures for combining and grouping violations in CPL 02-00-160, Field Operations Manual (FOM).  Where appropriate, §1910.1053(f)(1) should be cited and grouped with the violation of the PEL §1910.1053(c) and any applicable subparagraphs of §1910.1053(g). 

Exposure Variability: Differences in exposure can occur due to variable workplace conditions. 

  • If a CSHO obtains a sample showing exposures above the PEL, but has reason to believe based on the employer's exposure data that the results may be due to unpreventable exposure variability, then the Area Director (AD) may consider whether to conduct a follow-up inspection in lieu of issuing a citation.
  • The CSHO will compare the employer’s exposure data with CSHO sampling results to determine whether the employer’s data are representative.  To be representative, the employer’s samples must have been obtained under conditions that closely resemble or have a higher exposure potential than CSHO samples.
  • The CSHO should confer with the AD regarding whether re-sampling is appropriate.
  • The burden is on the employer to demonstrate that the CSHO's samples are not representative of normal exposure levels.

Exposure Assessment (§1910.1053(d)):

Employers must assess the exposure of each employee who is, or may reasonably be expected to be, exposed to respirable crystalline silica at or above the AL.  Employers may assess exposure in accordance with the performance option (§1910.1053(d)(2)) or the scheduled monitoring option (§1910.1053(d)(3)).

  • Performance Option (§1910.1053(d)(2)):
    • Provides the employer with flexibility.  However, the burden is on the employer to show that the sampling or objective data complies with the standard’s requirements.
      • Allows the employer to assess the 8hour TWA exposure of each employee on the basis of any combination of air monitoring data or objective data sufficient to accurately characterize each employee’s exposure to respirable crystalline silica.  Data must reflect worker exposure on each shift, each job classification, and in each work area.
      • Employers that rely on objective data generated by others are responsible for ensuring that the data relied upon accurately characterize their own employees’ exposures.

Note: Objective data means information – such as air monitoring data from industry-wide surveys or calculations based on the composition of a substance, demonstrating employee exposure to respirable crystalline silica associated with a particular product or material or a specific process, task, or activity. The data must reflect workplace conditions closely resembling or with a higher exposure potential than the processes, types of material, control methods, work practices, and environmental conditions in the employer’s current operations. §1910.1053(b).

    • Types of data and exposure assessment strategies that may qualify as objective data include: data from industry-wide surveys; data provided by equipment manufacturers; data provided by trade or professional associations; exposure mapping; calculations based on the composition of a substance; and the employer’s historical air monitoring data, including data obtained prior to the effective date of the standard.
    • To qualify as objective, the data must reflect workplace conditions closely resembling, or with a higher exposure potential than the processes, types of material, control methods, work practices, and environmental conditions present in the employer’s current operations.
    • Employers can characterize employee exposure within a range to account for variability in exposure (e.g., employee exposure is between the AL and the PEL).  For example, an employer could determine that exposures exceed the PEL by a certain level (such as less than 10 times the PEL) after using all feasible engineering controls.  Such assessment would allow the employer to determine the required level of respiratory protection.
  • Scheduled Monitoring Option (§1910.1053(d)(3)):
    • Requires employers to perform initial monitoring to assess the exposure of each employee. 
    • Requires exposure assessment for each employee on the basis of one or more personal breathing zone air samples that reflect the employee exposures on each shift, for each job classification, and in each work area. 
      • Where several employees perform the same tasks on the same shift and in the same work area, the employer may sample a representative fraction of these employees in order to meet this requirement. 
      • Representative sampling must be of the employee(s) who are expected to have the highest exposure to respirable crystalline silica.
    • May require periodic monitoring, depending on the most recent monitoring results.   
    • If initial monitoring indicates exposures are below the AL, the employer may discontinue monitoring for employees whose exposures are represented by the monitoring.
    • If the most recent (initial or repeat) exposure monitoring:
      • Indicates that exposures at or above the AL, but at or below the PEL, the employer must repeat monitoring within six months of the most recent monitoring (§1910.1053(d)(3)(iii)).
      • Indicates that exposures are above the PEL, the employer must repeat monitoring within three months of the most recent monitoring (§1910.1053(d)(3)(iv)).
    • If the most recent (non-initial) monitoring indicates that exposures are below the AL, the employer must repeat monitoring within six months until two consecutive measurements, taken seven or more days apart, are below the AL.  At that time, the employer can discontinue monitoring for employees whose exposures are represented by the monitoring.
  • Reassessment of exposures (§1910.1053(d)(4)):
    • The employer is required to reassess exposures whenever a change in the production, process, control equipment, personnel, or work practices, may reasonably be expected to result in new or additional respirable crystalline silica exposures at or above the AL; or,
    • When the employer has any reason to believe that new or additional exposures at or above the AL have occurred.
  • Methods of sample analysis (§1910.1053(d)(5)):
    • Samples taken to satisfy the monitoring requirements of paragraph (d) must be evaluated by a laboratory that analyzes air samples for respirable crystalline silica in accordance with the procedures in Appendix A of the standard, which contains specifications for the methods to be used for analysis of respirable crystalline silica samples. 
  • Observation of monitoring (§1910.1053(d)(7)):
    • The employer must provide affected employees, or their designated representatives, with an opportunity to observe air monitoring conducted to assess silica exposures. 
    • In many cases, observation of employee monitoring may not require entry into regulated areas or places where protective clothing or equipment is required for other workplace hazards.  When observation requires such entry, the employer must:
      • Provide affected employees and their designated representatives with protective clothing or equipment at no cost, when its use is required; and
      • Assess whether the observer already has the equipment, respirator medical clearance, and training necessary to enter the area in question, including observers not employed by the employer.

Inspection and Citation Guidance

  • Review the employer’s exposure data used by the employer to characterize employee exposures.  The CSHO must determine whether employers have appropriately assessed employee exposures in accordance with either the performance option (§1910.1053(d)(2)) or the scheduled monitoring option (§1910.1053(d)(3)).
    • Document any exposures the employer failed to assess.
    • If the CSHO determines that full-shift sampling is not necessary, the CSHO should explain why the sampling is not necessary in the case file.
  • Verify that the employer has re-assessed exposures, if required by §1910.1053(d)(4).  The requirement to reassess applies to assessments done under both the scheduled monitoring option and the performance option.
    • If the employer’s exposure assessment does not reflect the conditions observed, inquire whether there were any changes in the production, process, control equipment, personnel, or work practices that could affect the respirable crystalline silica exposures. 
    • If changes were made, review documentation of the employer’s re-assessment of its new exposure scenario(s).
    • Interview employees to determine if any changes occurred that may have resulted in new or additional exposures at or above the AL.
  • If there is any uncertainty regarding the accuracy of the employer’s exposure assessment, conduct personal sampling.
  • If no air monitoring and/or objective data records exist and employees are, or may reasonably be expected to be, exposed to respirable crystalline silica at or above the AL, cite §1910.1053(d)(1). 
  • If significant differences exist between the air monitoring and/or objective data and current conditions which could cause the employee(s) exposure(s) to be underestimated, §1910.1053(d)(1) should be cited.
  • If the employer is using the performance option and the assessment was inadequate because it does not accurately characterize the exposure of each employee, cite §1910.1053(d)(2).
  • If the employer is using the scheduled monitoring option and the initial assessment was inadequate because it does not reflect exposures on all shifts, for each job, and in each work area, then cite §1910.1053(d)(3)(i).  Also, cite under §1910.1053(d)(3)(i) if the initial assessment was inadequate because: the samples are area (environmental) samples and not personal samples; the employer’s personal air samples do not cover the entire exposure period or all tasks; or, (if the employer is using representative sampling) the employer’s personal air samples are not representative or the employer failed to sample the employee(s) who were expected to have the highest exposure to respirable crystalline silica.
  • If the employer is using the scheduled monitoring option and the employer failed to perform periodic monitoring based on the initial or most recent air monitoring results, as required, cite the applicable subparagraph of §1910.1053(d)(3).
  • If the employer fails to reassess exposures when required to do so by §1910.1053(d)(4), cite that provision.
  • If the employer fails to use a laboratory that follows the requirements for sample analysis in Appendix A of the standard, §1910.1053(d)(5) should be cited.
  • If employees and/or their representatives were not provided the opportunity to observe monitoring, or were not provided with the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) at no cost during observation, cite §1910.1053(d)(7)(i) and/or §1910.1053(d)(7)(ii).

Regulated areas (§1910.1053(e)):

  • Regulated area means an area, demarcated by the employer, where an employee’s exposure to airborne concentrations of respirable crystalline silica exceeds, or can reasonably be expected to exceed, the PEL.  §1910.1053(b).
  • Employers must establish a regulated area wherever an employee’s exposure to respirable crystalline silica is, or can reasonably be expected to be, in excess of the PEL.  §1910.1053(e)(1).
  • Employers must demarcate regulated areas from the rest of the workplace in a manner that minimizes the number of employees exposed to respirable crystalline silica within the regulated area and post signs at all entrances to regulated areas that bear the legend specified in §1910.1053(j)(2).
    • Employers may use ropes, markings (such as lines, textured flooring, or warning signs), temporary barricades, gates, or more permanent enclosures to demarcate and limit access to regulated areas.  They may also elect to demarcate the regulated area on a temporary basis, on days when exposures are reasonably expected to exceed the PEL, by means of movable stanchions, portable cones, or barricade tape, as long as the required warning sign with prescribed hazard language is posted at all entrances.  § 1910.1053(e)(2), (j)(2).
  • Employers must limit access to regulated areas to persons authorized by the employer and required by work duties to be present in the regulated area, persons observing exposure monitoring, or any person authorized by the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act or regulations issued under it to be in a regulated area.  §1910.1053(e)(3).
  • Employers must provide each employee and the employee’s designated representative entering a regulated area with an appropriate respirator, in accordance with paragraph (g).  Each employee and the designated representative must use the respirator while in the regulated area, regardless of the length of time spent in the regulated area.  §1910.1053(e)(4).

Note: Where the standard requires the use of respiratory protection, employers must institute a respiratory protection program in accordance with §1910.134.

Inspection and Citation Guidance:

  • If the employer has established a regulated area, observe the demarcation and persons entering and exiting the area.  Determine whether the employer has adequately demarcated a regulated area and whether the demarcation effectively warns employees not to enter unless they are authorized.
  • Ask employees whether they enter regulated areas and, if so, why.
  • Take photographs to document when there are instances where regulated areas are not demarcated and where signs are not posted at entrances.
  • If air monitoring results indicate that exposures are above the PEL and the employer has not established a regulated area, cite § 1910.1053(e)(1).
  • If the employer failed to demarcate the regulated area, as required, or post the required signage, cite §1910.1053(e)(2)(i) and/or §1910.1053(e)(2)(ii), as appropriate. 
    • If non-compliance is related to signage, consider grouping the violation with §1910.1053(j)(2), as appropriate.
  • If the employer failed to limit access to the regulated area to the designated groups of people, cite §1910.1053(e)(3).
    • If the employer failed to provide each employee (or the employee’s designated representative) entering a regulated area with an appropriate respirator, cite §1910.1053(e)(4) and group with §1910.1053(g)(1)(iv).

Methods of Compliance – Engineering and work practice controls (§1910.1053(f)(1)):

  • Requires employers to use engineering and/or work practice controls to reduce and maintain employee exposures to respirable crystalline silica at or below the PEL, unless the employer can demonstrate that such controls are not feasible.
  • Where engineering and/or work practice controls are not sufficient to reduce employee exposure to or below the PEL, the employer must use controls to reduce employee exposure to the lowest feasible level and supplement them with the use of respiratory protection.

Note 1: Hydraulic fracturing operations in the oil and gas industry have until June 23, 2021, to implement feasible engineering controls to achieve the new PEL, per §1910.1053(l)(3)(ii).  Until that time, when employee exposures exceed the PEL, employers must provide their employees with respiratory protection and ensure its use.

Note 2: The respirable crystalline silica standard does not prohibit employers from rotating employees to different jobs to limit exposure.  While employee rotation is a type of work practice control, its use as a means of avoiding implementation of engineering and other work practice controls is not encouraged.  It can be administratively difficult to maintain employees’ exposures at or below the PEL solely using rotation. 

Inspection and Citation Guidance:

  • Observe employees using (or ask the employer to describe and/or demonstrate) the engineering and work practice controls to ensure that controls are present and appropriate.
  • If air sampling results show that employees are exposed to respirable crystalline silica above the PEL, and if the employer has implemented all feasible engineering and work practice controls, and employees are adequately protected by an effective respiratory protection program, then no PEL violation should be cited.
    • To assess whether an employer has reduced exposures to the lowest feasible level, ask the employer about its efforts to control exposures.  Examples of evidence employers might offer to show that they have implemented all feasible engineering and work practice controls and reached the lowest feasible level of exposure include:
      • Results of past control efforts;
      • Evidence of previous efforts to control dust sources using widely recognized control measures; or,
      • Air monitoring results from before and after controls were implemented.
  • Evaluate the employer efforts to prevent or fix malfunctions that would result in increased exposures (e.g., review whether the employer inspects and maintains controls).
  • Evaluate the implementation of work practice controls, for example:
      • Observe whether tools that use water to control dust spray water at the point of dust generation.
      • Observe positioning of local exhaust hoods.
  • If sampling results show that employees are exposed to respirable crystalline silica above the PEL, and the employer has not instituted feasible engineering and work practice controls, or has not maintained the controls that are implemented, cite §1910.1053(c) and grouped with §1910.1053(f)(1).

Written Exposure Control Plan (§1910.1053(f)(2)):

  • Employers must establish and implement a written exposure control plan (ECP) that contains the elements specified in the standard.
  • Employers must review and evaluate the effectiveness of the ECP at least annually and update as necessary.
  • Employers much make the ECP readily available for examination and copying, upon request, to each covered employee, their designated representative, and OSHA.

Inspection and Citation Guidance:

  • Review the employer’s written ECP to ensure that it includes each of the required elements. 
  • Ask the employer how often the written ECP is reviewed and evaluated for effectiveness.
  • Question employees to determine if the ECP was made available to them, if requested.
  • If the employer does not have a written ECP, cite §1910.1053(f)(2)(i).  If the employer’s ECP is missing any of the required elements or if the elements are deficient, cite §1910.1053(f)(2)(i)(A)-(C), as appropriate.
  • If the employer failed to review and evaluate the written ECP at least annually, cite §1910.1053(f)(2)(ii).
  • If the employer failed to make the written ECP available to employees, designated representatives, or OSHA for examination and copying, cite §1910.1053(f)(2)(iii).

Abrasive blasting (§1910.1053(f)(3)):

  • Requires the employer to comply with other OSHA standards, if applicable, when performing abrasive blasting operations using crystalline silica-containing blasting agents or where abrasive blasting is conducted on substrates that contain crystalline silica.  Examples of such OSHA standards include:
    • Ventilation (§1910.94) and
    • Mechanical Paint Removers (§1915.34). 

Note: Where an alternative abrasive material is being used also evaluate for the hazards associated with the material.

Inspection and Citation Guidance:

  • When conducting air monitoring for employees performing abrasive blasting, the air sampling device (cyclone) must be placed within the breathing zone, outside any protective equipment including the abrasive blasting respirator.
  • Determine whether the ventilation system for the abrasive blasting enclosure prevents escape of dust and provides prompt clearance of dust-laden air. §1910.94 (a)(3)(i) and §1910.94 (a)(3)(i)(b).
  • Determine whether each blast cleaning nozzle is properly equipped with an operating valve that must be held open manually.  §1910.244(b).
  • For supplied-air respirators, evaluate breathing air quality and use.  Oil-lubricated compressors must be equipped with a high-temperature or carbon monoxide alarm, or both, to ensure that carbon monoxide levels remain below 10 parts per million (ppm).  §1910.94(a)(6) and §1910.134(i).

Note: Using an abrasive blasting hood while wearing a filtering face piece respirator violates the NIOSH approval for both respirators.

  • If the ventilation system for a blast cleaning enclosure is found to be inadequately designed or ineffective at controlling silica dust, then the applicable section of §1910.94(a) should be cited and grouped with paragraph §1910.1053(f)(1).
  • If blast cleaning nozzles are not properly equipped with operating valves that must be held open manually, §1910.244(b) should be cited.
  • Violations related to respiratory protection for abrasive blasting operations should be cited under §1910.94(a)(5) and grouped with the applicable provisions of §1910.134, as well as §1910.1053(g).
  • Violations related to PPE should be cited, where appropriate, under §1910.94(a)(5), §1910.132, §1915.34, and 1915 Subpart I, respectively.

Respiratory Protection (§1910.1053(g)):

  • Where respiratory protection is required by the standard, employers must provide each employee with an appropriate respirator that complies with the requirements of this paragraph and OSHA’s Respiratory Protection standard. §1910.134. 
  • Respirators are required:
    • Where exposures exceed the PEL during periods necessary to install or implement feasible engineering and work practice controls;
    • Where exposures exceed the PEL during tasks, such as certain maintenance and repair tasks, for which engineering and work practice controls are not feasible;
    • During tasks for which an employer has implemented all feasible engineering and work practice controls and where such controls are not sufficient to reduce exposures to or below the PEL; and
    • During periods when the employee or designated representative is in a regulated area.
      • The employer must assess whether the observer already has the equipment, medical clearance, and training necessary to enter the area in question, including observers not employed by the employer.
  • Where respirator use is required, §1910.1053(g)(2) requires the employer to institute a respiratory protection program in accordance with OSHA’s Respiratory Protection standard (§1910.134). 

Inspection and Citation Guidance:

  • Evaluate whether respiratory protection is being used when required as described above.
  • Review the employer’s written ECP to ensure a description of the respiratory protection used to limit employee exposure to respirable crystalline silica for each task is included and implemented.
  • Evaluate the adequacy of the respiratory protection that is provided.
  • The assigned protection factor of the respirator must be high enough to maintain the employee’s exposure to respirable crystalline silica at or below the maximum use concentration (MUC) (i.e., the product of multiplying the approved protection factor (APF) of the respirator by the PEL for silica).  §1910.134(d)(3)(i)(B)(1).
  • Review the medical evaluation results that are authorized under the Respiratory Protection standard (§1910.134(e)) and conduct interviews to determine whether there are any employees wearing respirators who should not be. 
  • Determine if the requirements of paragraph (e) of the Respiratory Protection standard are being met by interviewing a number of employees and asking whether they have been provided with a confidential evaluation of their ability to wear a respirator.
  • For guidance on inspection procedures for §1910.134, refer to the Inspection Procedures for the Respiratory Protection Standard, (CPL 02-00-158).
  • If the employer does not provide appropriate respiratory protection for employees in the above situations, the applicable subparagraph of §1910.1053(g)(1) should be cited.
    • For example, when the employer has provided a respirator with an APF that does not maintain an employee’s exposure to respirable crystalline silica at or below the MUC, §1910.1053(g)(1) should be cited and grouped with §1910.134(d)(3)(i)(B)(1). 

Housekeeping Practices (§1910.1053(h)):

  • Dry sweeping and dry brushing are prohibited where such activities could contribute to employee exposures to respirable crystalline silica, unless wet sweeping, HEPA-filtered vacuuming, or other methods that minimize the likelihood of exposure are not feasible (i.e., other cleaning methods would not be effective, would cause damage, or would create a greater hazard in the workplace).  §1910.1053(h)(1).
  • The employer bears the burden of showing that the alternative methods are not feasible.
  • The use of sweeping compounds (e.g., grit, non-grit, oil- or waxed or water-based) is an acceptable dust suppression housekeeping method provided the employer can demonstrate that such compounds do not create additional exposures.
  • Use of compressed air for cleaning is not allowed where such activity could contribute to employee exposure to respirable crystalline silica, unless the compressed air is used in conjunction with a ventilation system that effectively captures the dust cloud created by the compressed air, or no alternative method is feasible.  §1910.1053(h)(2).
  • Some employers use drivable powered industrial sweepers to clean dust.  Sweepers may be equipped with rotating brushes that lift dirt and dust from the floor and feed the dirt and dust into a vacuum located on the underside of the equipment.  When these types of sweepers are equipped with HEPA filters and effectively remove the dust, their use should be considered “HEPA-filtered vacuuming” for purposes of paragraph (h) of the standard. CSHOs should evaluate the employer’s ECP to assure that the employer has assessed exposures related to use of these sweepers.
  • The employer’s ECP must include the description of the housekeeping measures.

Inspection and Citation Guidance

  • Review the employer’s written ECP to ensure that the employer’s housekeeping practices are included and implemented.
  • Interview and/or observe employees who are cleaning up dust that could contribute to respirable crystalline silica exposures to determine whether permissible housekeeping methods are used. 
  • It may be necessary for the CSHO to collect a bulk sample and/or personal air samples to document that the dust contains crystalline silica.
  • §1910.1053(h)(1) should be cited where:
    • An employer allows dry sweeping or dry brushing for cleaning where such activity could contribute to employee exposure to respirable crystalline silica; and,
    • The employer cannot demonstrate that wet sweeping, HEPA-filtered vacuuming, or other cleaning methods that minimize the likelihood for exposure to respirable crystalline silica are not feasible.
  • §1910.1053(h)(2) should be cited where:
    • An employer allows the use of compressed air to clean clothing or surfaces where such activity could contribute to employee exposure to respirable crystalline silica; and,
    • The compressed air is not being used in conjunction with a ventilation system that effectively captures the dust cloud created by the compressed air or the employer cannot demonstrate that alternative cleaning methods are infeasible.

Medical Surveillance (§1910.1053(i)):

  • Employers must make medical examinations available to each employee who will be exposed to respirable crystalline silica above the PEL for 30 or more days a year.
    • Exposures occurring with past employers do not count towards the 30-day trigger with the current employer (i.e., the trigger is for employment with each particular employer).  However, the 30-day trigger would apply when any employer hires a particular employee for more than one short-term assignment during a year, totaling 30 days or more.
    • Medical surveillance must be made available at no cost to the employee and at a reasonable time and place.

Note: The requirement to offer medical surveillance is currently triggered by exposures above the PEL for 30 or more days a year.  However, on June 23, 2020, this requirement will change and employers will be required to offer medical surveillance to employees who are exposed at or above the AL for 30 or more days per year.

  • The employer must make the initial (baseline) medical examination available within 30 days after initial assignment (unless the employee has received a medical examination in accordance with the standard within the past three years).
  • Employers must continue to offer a medical examination to each employee who meets the trigger for medical surveillance whenever it comes due again, even if the employee has previously declined such an examination.
  • The standard does not prohibit an employer from having an employee sign a statement affirming that she/he was offered medical surveillance and she/he declined to participate.  However, the employer would still be required to make the medical examination available within the time that the next examination would have been due (i.e., within three years).
  • The written medical opinion provided to the employer by the physician or other licensed health care professional (PLHCP) must contain only the date of the exam, a statement that the exam met the requirements of the standard, and any limitations on the employee’s use of respirators.
  • If the employee has provided the PLHCP with written authorization, then the written medical opinion for the employer should also contain the following: (1) any recommended limitations on the employee’s continued exposure to silica; and (2) a statement that the employee should be examined by a specialist.
  • The employer must ensure that each employee receives a copy of the written medical opinion within 30 days of the medical examination.

Inspection and Citation Guidance

  • Ensure that the employer has included the appropriate employees in the medical surveillance program by asking employees about their exposures, respirator usage, entry into regulated areas, and whether they have been offered medical examinations by their employer.  Because respirator usage under the standard and the establishment of regulated areas are triggered by exposures above the PEL, employees who must use respirators or enter into regulated areas 30 or more days in a year should have been offered a medical examination.
  • Where employees have been evaluated by a PLHCP, ask employees if the evaluation took place prior to or within 30 days of beginning their silica-related work assignments.  Interview employees to determine if the employer is requiring employees to pay for the examinations or undergo medical testing at unreasonable times or places. 
  • Ask employers for copies of the written medical opinions.  Whenever reviewing medical opinions, the CSHO should follow OSHA Instruction CPL 02-02-072, Rules of Agency Practice and Procedure Concerning OSHA Access to Employee Medical Records
  • Cite §1910.1053(i)(1)(i) if no medical surveillance was provided when employees were exposed above the PEL for 30 or more days a year.  This 30-day requirement began June 23, 2018.
  • Cite §1910.1053(i)(1)(i) if medical surveillance was not made available at no cost and at a reasonable time and place to employees exposed above the PEL for 30 or more days a year. (Note: Medical surveillance must be made available to employees exposed at or above the AL for 30 or more days per year beginning on June 23, 2020.)
  • Cite §1910.1053(i)(6) if the employer cannot produce a requested written medical opinion, and cite §1910.1053(i)(6)(iii) if employees were not given a written medical opinion within 30 days of their examination.

Note: CSHOs should have exposure assessment data to support these citations.

Communication of Hazards (§1910.1053(j)):

  • Training is required for all employees who are, or could foreseeably be, exposed to respirable crystalline silica at or above the AL of 25 μg/m3 as an 8-hour TWA.
  • Employers must include respirable crystalline silica in their hazard communication program, ensure that employees have access to labels on containers of crystalline silica and related safety data sheets, and train their employees as required in the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS), §1910.1200 and §1910.1053 (j)(3). 
  • The HCS applies to silica regardless of the airborne exposure level. CSHOs should cite employers for hazard communication deficiencies where employees are exposed or potentially exposed to respirable crystalline silica at any level.
  • Employers must post warning signs at all entrances to regulated areas to ensure that employees are aware of the presence of respirable crystalline silica above the PEL and understand the hazards associated with the area, as well as the need for respiratory protection.  The signs must include the following language:
  • DANGER
    RESPIRABLE CRYSTALLINE SILICA
    MAY CAUSE CANCER
    CAUSES DAMAGE TO LUNGS
    WEAR RESPIRATORY PROTECTION IN THIS AREA
    AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ONLY
  •  
    • The signs must include the exact wording listed above.  §1910.1053(j)(2).  However, employers may choose to include additional information, as long as the additional information is not confusing or misleading and does not detract from the warnings required by the standard.
  • Employers must ensure that each employee covered by the standard can demonstrate knowledge and understanding of silica-related health hazards, the specific tasks in the workplace that could result in respirable crystalline silica exposure, the specific measures the employer has implemented to protect employees from exposure, the standard, and the purpose and a description of the employer's silica medical surveillance program.  It also requires employers to make a copy of the standard readily available to employees free of charge.  §1910.1053(j)(3).

Inspection and Citation Guidance

  • Review the employer’s written hazard communication program to determine whether it includes respirable crystalline silica.
  • Inspect the entrances to any regulated areas to determine if the employer has posted the appropriate signage.
  • Question covered employees to see if they have had training on and can demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the required topics, and to determine if a copy of the standard was made available to them.
  • If respirable crystalline silica hazards were not communicated to the employees in accordance with paragraph (j)(1), then §1910.1053(j)(1) should be cited.
    • If applicable, §1910.1200(h)(2)(ii) and §1910.1200(h)(3)(ii)-(iii) should be cited and grouped with paragraphs §1910.1053(j)(1) and §1910.1053(j)(3).
  • If the required hazard warning signs were not posted at all entrances to the regulated area(s), then §1910.1053(j)(2) should be cited.
  • If covered employees did not receive any of the training required by §1910.1053(j)(3), or if the employee cannot demonstrate knowledge and understanding of any of the required training topics, then §1910.1053(j)(3)(i) should be cited.  If employees were not trained on or cannot demonstrate knowledge and understanding of particular topics listed in §1910.1053(j)(3)(i), then the relevant subparagraph (§1910.1053(j)(3)(i)(A)-(E)) should be cited.
  • If the employer did not make a copy of the standard readily available to covered employees without cost, then (§1910.1053(j)(3)(ii) should be cited.

CSHO Protection

  • CSHOs who are required to wear any respiratory protection must be medically cleared as per the medical eligibility examination procedures as described in the CPL 02-02-054, Respiratory Protection Program Guidelines
  • CSHOs must wear the appropriate PPE for potential hazardous exposures. 
  • CSHOs must also not enter a respirable crystalline silica-regulated area, or other area where exposures are likely to exceed the PEL, unless it is absolutely necessary, and then only if using appropriate PPE.  CSHOs should be conservative about time spent in regulated areas or other areas where high concentrations of silica exist or are suspected.
  • For inspection and air sampling activities, CSHOs should use remote operations when practical.

[1] The shipyard silica standard, 29 CFR 1915.1053, cross-references 29 CFR 1910.1053.