OSHA National Emphasis Program on Crystalline Silica

February 10, 2020
OSHA has published an updated 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 exposures to RCS. Changes in the NEP include:
  • The replacement NEP addresses enforcement of OSHA’s standards for RCS, promulgated in 2016. One standard covers general industry and maritime, and the other covers construction. Both standards set a permissible exposure limit (PEL) for RCS of 50 micrograms per cubic meter (μg/m3) as an 8-hour time-weighted average (TWA). The former TWA PELs for respirable quartz silica were calculated based on silica content and were approximately equivalent to 100 μg/m3 for general industry and 250 μg/m3 for construction and shipyards (81 FR at 16294, March 25, 2016).
  • The NEP contains an updated list of target industries, listed by North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes.
  • For inspection procedures, this NEP refers compliance safety and health officers (CSHOs) to current enforcement guidance for the Respirable Crystalline Silica Standards.
  • State Plan participation in this NEP has been made mandatory.
  • Area and Regional Offices must comply with this NEP, but they are not required to develop and implement corresponding Local Emphasis Programs (LEPs) or Regional Emphasis Programs (REPs).
  • Area Offices will conduct outreach programs three months prior to initiating NEP-related RCS inspections.
  • Area Offices are no longer required to send abatement verification to the National Office.
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Guidance on Requirements to Protect Health Care Workers from 2019 Novel Coronavirus
Cal/OSHA published guidance on the protection of health care workers from exposure to 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). The guidance covers the safety requirements when providing care for suspected or confirmed patients of the respiratory disease or when handling pathogens in laboratory settings in California.
“It is vital that employers take the necessary steps to protect workers in health care settings where they may be at risk of exposure to 2019 Novel Coronavirus,” said Cal/OSHA Chief Doug Parker. “Cal/OSHA will provide guidance and resources on how to protect workers from this airborne infectious disease.”
The risk for infection is higher in health care settings such as hospitals and clinical laboratories. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is providing updates and closely monitoring suspected cases of 2019-nCoV infection and transmission.
2019-nCoV is an airborne infectious disease covered by Cal/OSHA’s Aerosol Transmissible Diseases (ATD) standard, which requires employers to protect workers from diseases and pathogens transmitted by aerosols.
The ATD standard requires employers to have an ATD Exposure Control Plan with procedures to identify 2019-nCoV cases or suspected cases as soon as possible and protect employees from infection. 
The ATD standard further requires employers to provide training on the:
  • Signs and symptoms of 2019-nCoV.
  • Modes of transmission of the disease and source control procedures.
  • Tasks and activities that may expose the employee to 2019-nCoV.
  • Use and limitations of methods to prevent or reduce exposure to the disease including decontamination and disinfection procedures.
  • Selection of personal protective equipment, its uses and limitations, and the types, proper use, location, removal, handling, cleaning, decontamination and disposal of protective equipment. 
  • Proper use of respirators. 
  • Available vaccines, when they become available.
  • Employer's plan if an exposure incident occurs and surge plan, if applicable.
Employers must use feasible engineering and work practice controls to minimize employee exposure to 2019-nCoV. Examples of engineering controls include airborne infection isolation rooms or areas, exhaust ventilation, air filtration and air disinfection. Work practice controls include procedures for safely moving patients through the operation or facility, handwashing, personal protective equipment donning and doffing procedures, the use of anterooms, and cleaning and disinfecting contaminated surfaces, protective equipment, articles and linens.
Visit Cal/OSHA’s webpage for further interim guidance on 2019-nCoV exposure in health care settings. In order to help employers comply with the ATD standard, Cal/OSHA has posted several publications including The California Workplace Guide to Aerosol Transmissible Diseases and fillable ATD model exposure control and laboratory biosafety plans.
Several occupational safety and health standards, including Cal/OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogens Standard adopted in 1992 and the ATD Standard adopted in 2009, address worker protections when exposure to infectious diseases including coronavirus may occur in health care settings. The standards apply to hospital workers and emergency medical services, as well as workers in biological laboratories, decontamination workers, public health workers, or public safety employees who may be exposed to infectious disease hazards.
Cal/OSHA reminded all employers and workers that any suspected cases of 2019-nCoV must be promptly reported to the local public health department.
The California Department of Public Health has updated information on 2019-nCoV and reporting requirements. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also posted specific information for health care workers and laboratory settings.
Pennsylvania Company Fined $280,874 for Overexposing Employees to Hexavalent Chromium Fumes
OSHA has cited Cleveland Brothers Inc. – doing business as CB HYMAC – for exposing workers to hexavalent chromium fumes and other safety hazards at the company’s shop in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania. OSHA cited the company, which provides hydraulic service and repair, machining and chroming services, for one willful violation and 18 serious and two other-than-serious citations. The company faces $280,874 in penalties.
OSHA initiated an investigation in July 2019 after receiving a complaint of overexposure to the toxic chemical. OSHA also cited the company for failing to train employees on the hazards of hexavalent chromium, and maintain a respiratory protection program.
“Occupational exposure to hexavalent chromium can result in significant adverse health effects for employees,” said OSHA Harrisburg Area Director David Olah. “Engineering controls must be implemented and affected employees must be trained to recognize the hazards of this toxic chemical.”
“Employers must continually evaluate their facilities for hazards, and use proper safety controls and equipment to protect workers’ safety,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Loren Sweatt. “OSHA provides free resources to help employers comply with hexavalent chromium standards.”
 OSHA’s hexavalent chromium webpage provides resources on protecting employees from health and safety hazards caused by the toxic chemical, including the Small Entity Compliance Guide for the Hexavalent Chromium Standards.
The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and penalties (view them here and here) to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
Georgia Farm Cited for Exposing Employees to Safety Hazards Following Fatality 
OSHA has cited Pearson Farms LLC for safety violations after an employee suffered fatal injuries at the farm’s post-harvest operations facility in Fort Valley, Georgia. The farm is facing $128,004 in penalties.
OSHA cited the employer for exposing employees to struck-by hazards after investigators determined that the employee, who was performing maintenance on a conveyor system, was caught between the load on a forklift and a metal railing. Additionally, OSHA cited the employer for exposing workers to fall, chemical and amputation hazards. The employer also failed to: provide an early warning system to detect anhydrous ammonia leaks; develop and implement an emergency response plan; adequately train workers to respond to a potential release of anhydrous ammonia; provide effective machine guarding; and develop, implement, and utilize lockout/tagout procedures.
“Employers must assess their workplaces to identify hazards and take corrective actions to eliminate serious or life-threatening injuries and illnesses,” said OSHA Acting Area Director Condell Eastmond, in Atlanta-East. “A comprehensive safety and health program should be implemented to ensure controls are in place to protect workers.”
OSHA offers training materials for forklift operators, the Powered Industrial Trucks - Forklifts webpage provides information on forklift hazards and solutions, and applicable standards on forklift use.
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