OSHA Increases Efforts to Enforce Silica Standards

Jan. 4, 2020, OSHA revised its National Emphasis Program (NEP) to identify and reduce or eliminate worker exposures to respirable crystalline silica (RCS) in general industry, maritime, and construction. The NEP targets specific industries expected to have the highest numbers of workers exposed to silica and focuses on enforcement of the new silica standards.

Protective respirator at man hands at industrial factory

These standards became effective in June 2016, and construction employers were required to begin complying with their standard as of September 23, 2017, and the general industry and maritime employers were required to begin complying with their standard as of June 23, 2018.

Employers should review the standards and, if required, ensure they’re in compliance. 

General Industry Standard

Construction Silica Standard


Changes Made to the NEP

  1. Revised application to the lower permissible exposure limit for respirable crystalline silica to 50 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3) as an 8-hour time-weighted average in general industry, maritime, and construction
  2. An updated list of target industries, as listed in the appendix of the NEP; from this list, area offices will develop randomized establishment lists of employers in their local jurisdictions for targeted inspections
  3. Compliance safety and health officers will refer to current enforcement guidance for RCS inspection procedures
  4. All OSHA regional and area offices must comply with this NEP, but they are not required to develop and implement corresponding regional or local emphasis programs
  5. State Plans must participate because of the nationwide exposures to silica

Targeted Industries

OSHA is implementing the NEP to target industries and workplaces with the highest risk for worker exposure to silica and ensure silica standards are being followed. The program will include targeted inspection, as well as outreach and compliance assistance programs for covered employees. Establishments in NEP-listed industries will be randomly selected for inspections, but complaints and referrals alleging potential worker exposures to silica will be prioritized for OSHA inspection.

Review the NEP list of target industries (Appendix A-2 through A-4), to confirm if your business is impacted. 


TEAM Professional Services Can Help!

Medical Surveillance

Employers covered by the standard are required to offer medical exams every three years to workers exposed at or above the action level for 30 or more days per year (general industry and maritime), or to those required to wear a respirator for 30 or more days per year (construction). A baseline physical must be offered within 30 days of the worker’s first day on the job. 

Silica medical exams must include:

  1. Medical and occupational history review
  2. Physical examination with emphasis on the respiratory system
  3. Tuberculin (TB) test
  4. Chest X-ray with B reader
  5. Pulmonary function test
  6. Written medical opinion by a PLHCP

Medical surveillance can be overwhelming. TEAM Professional Services partners with employers nationwide to manage their medical surveillance programs. Our services include identifying and setting up certified providers, tracking and reviewing results, monitoring exam renewals and consulting with our on-staff physicians. For more information on TEAM’s medical surveillance program management services, contact us today.


OSHA Fact Sheet – Silica Standard for Construction

OSHA Fact Sheet – Silica Standard for General Industry and Maritime