March 18, 2020
U.S. Department of Labor Extends Emphasis Program in West Virginia
To Reduce or Eliminate Worker Exposure to Silica
PHILADELPHIA, PA – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has launched an initiative to increase the focus of agency inspections in West Virginia’s maritime, construction, and general industries on identifying, reducing, or eliminating worker exposures to respirable crystalline silica.
The initiative extends OSHA’s National Emphasis Program (NEP) on Respirable Crystalline Silica. NEPs are temporary programs that focus agency resources on particular hazards and high-hazard industries while not creating any new obligation for employers.
The NEP on respirable crystalline silica will target specific industries in West Virginia that are expected to have the highest numbers of workers exposed to silica. It will also focus on enforcement of two new silica standards, one for the general and maritime industries, and one for the construction industry. OSHA is conducting compliance assistance until May 3, 2020, after which inspections under the NEP will begin.
“The goal of this NEP is to reduce or eliminate worker exposure to dangerous silica particles, and prevent the risk of workers developing serious silica-related diseases,” said OSHA Philadelphia Regional Administrator Michael Rivera.
OSHA’s new silica standards for the maritime, construction and general industries could impact approximately 5,684 West Virginia workers.
Respirable crystalline silica consists of small silica particles that are generated by cutting, sawing, grinding, drilling and crushing materials such as stone, rock, concrete, brick, block and mortar. Inhaling the dust created during these operations can cause silicosis, an incurable lung disease, lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. For more information on the health effects from silica exposure, and how employers can protect workers, visit OSHA’s Safety and Health Topics webpage on Crystalline Silica.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to help ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit www.osha.gov.
The mission of the Department of Labor is to foster, promote and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights.
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Release Number: 20-414-PHI (OSHA 20-16)
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