Cal/OSHA’s New Silica Standard for Construction and Problems

Although a couple weeks ago, Fed OSHA announced a three month delay in the commencement of the Silica in Construction Standard that is not the case with Cal/OSHA. Cal/OSHA’s standard will begin on June 23, 2017.  The Standards Board is very clear that they have no intention of changing the start date.  They will rely on the Division to change the start date, and we haven’t heard the Division making such a proposal. If you are in construction, it is safe to assume a June kick-off.

A potentially more significant problem for contractors will be how to deal with Section 1530.1 (Cutting of Concrete and Mortar) AND the NEW Silica Standard, which clearly conflict and both are in effect.  The old standard allows the use of local exhaust ventilation to control exposure to silica and has exemptions for specific tasks. The NEW Standard, however, only allows wet methods of control and no exemptions.  This presents a clear conflict for contractors.  An Advisory Committee has been formed to deal with these obvious problems, but resolution will unlikely occur before June 23.  The Advisory Committee is attempting to write in the NEW Standard conditions or tasks under which local exhaust ventilation could be used, but at this time it only addresses a few tasks (so approval to use wet methods or exhaust ventilation is very limited).  I am hopeful that equipment manufacturers will present empirical evidence showing that their local exhaust systems are as effective as wet methods, but the data has been sparse to date.  So what should a contractor do?  My advice to contractors would be to comply with the NEW Silica Standard and when there is conflict, follow the more restrictive standard (if such should be the case).