How to Avoid OSHA Penalties from the New Silica Rule

Haley Bass

With new crystalline silica regulations impacting businesses in construction, maritime, manufacturing, and hydraulic fracturing, employers will need to make sure they’re meeting the appropriate standards to avoid penalty. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has detailed compliance requirements and enforcement dates for all industries. The new rule for construction companies will be enforced as of September 2017, but other industries have a little more time.

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re a human resource manager, safety director, compliance officer, or someone else who handles OSHA compliance at your company. You need to know what new standards were developed with the crystalline silica rule, and what penalties and fines your company will face if compliance isn’t met.

What does the new rule impact?

OSHA’s crystalline silica final rule establishes a lower permissible exposure limit and creates new provisions to protect employees. These provisions include:

  • Requirements for exposure assessment
  • Methods for controlling exposure
  • Respiratory protection
  • Medical surveillance
  • Hazard communication
  • Recordkeeping

Learn more about the specifics of these standards on OSHA’s website.

What are the penalties?

OSHA can cite a company for failing to meet any of the silica rule’s standards. Safety managers anticipate that OSHA inspectors will target four standards to cite as a bundle:

  • Specified exposure control methods
  • Written exposure control plan
  • Medical surveillance
  • Employee information and training

Most fines will be assessed at $12,675 per violation, the new maximum penalty amount as of January 13, 2017. A repeat or willful violation can result in a fine up to $126,749 per violation. Penalties can be reduced up to 60% for small employers, up to 25% for good faith (like if you have a written safety program or the violation was an accident), and up to 10% for a clean citation history. Penalties can be multiplied if the company was previously cited or the violation was willful.

How can I avoid these penalties?

OSHA penalties can be avoided by complying with the crystalline silica rule’s standards. Some of the ways employers can meet compliance include:

  • Completing an exposure assessment of the worksite
  • Developing a corporate silica safety program with written exposure control plans
  • Using engineering controls like ventilation systems and wet saws
  • Providing medical exams for exposed workers
  • Training managers and employees

Managing the ins and outs of a new OSHA rule can be difficult. Even with good intentions to keep your employees safe and healthy on the job, failing to meet a single safety standard could result in a major setback. Concentra has been in the business of workforce health for more than 35 years, and we have the tools and resources to simplify compliance for your company. Talk to a Concentra representative to learn more about how we can help you comply with OSHA’s silica rule.

If your employees require a respirator fit test or clearance exam, you can send them to any Concentra center nationwide.