History and critical analysis of OSHA crystalline silica rules: A systematic review


Rifath Ali, Troy Rawlins

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was created in 1971 fol-lowing the passage of the Occupational Safety and Health Act on December 29, 1970. Signed into law by President Nixon, OSHA was created to protect the health and safety of American workers from the hazards of their work environments. A significant workplace health hazard, especially in the construction industry, is crystalline silica, or silica dust. Only recently was an official rule on crystalline silica exposure signed into law. Published in the Federal Register on March 25, 2016, the crystalline silica exposure rule was cor-rected on May 18, 2016, and issued on June 23 that same year. The rule became effective on June 23, 2017. Previously, federal, state, and local programs and initiatives provided guidelines and standards on proactive measures to reduce the health effects of silica on workers. A systematic review of crystalline silica resources was conducted, including the history of crystalline silica as an occupational health hazard, the history of governmen-tal and non-governmental silica standards and guidelines, and the anticipated physical adjustments that industries, specific companies, and other entities plan to implement for future compliance with the new standards. The economic consequences of imple-menting the new practices and permissible exposure limits have yet to be measured, and there are conflicting outlooks between the data published by OSHA and the studies released by groups representing the affected industries. In April of 2017, the effective date of the new silica rule was delayed 3 months to September 23, 2017.