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OSHAs New Program Addresses Crystalline Silica Hazards

In a newly issued instruction, OSHA describes policies and procedures for implementing a National Emphasis Program (NEP) to identify and reduce or eliminate health hazards associated with occupational exposure to crystalline silica.

Crystalline silica, a compound workers in the construction, maritime and general industries are routinely exposed to, is cited as the cause of silicosis, a disabling and sometimes fatal lung disease. The new instruction will expand on OSHA’s Special Emphasis Program for silicosis, which was established in 1996 to provide guidance for targeting worksite inspections with employees at risk of developing the disease.

According to the document, eliminating and reducing workplace exposure to crystalline silica can be accomplished by a combined effort of inspection targeting, employer outreach and compliance assistance.

Significant changes made to the 1996 Special Emphasis Program include:

  • New program evaluation procedures that will require OSHA area offices to conduct follow-up inspections where overexposures to crystalline silica are found and to provide the National Office-Directorate of Enforcement Programs with portions of case files containing citations for crystalline silica overexposure;
  • Detailed procedures for conducting silica-related inspections;
  • Updated information for selecting sites for inspection, including an updated list of North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS) and Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) codes for industries with documented employee exposures to breathable crystalline silica;
  • Developing outreach programs by each region and area office, emphasizing the formation of voluntary partnerships to share information on effective methods for reducing or eliminating employee exposure to crystalline silica; and
  • Guidance on calculating the permissible exposure limits for dust containing respirable crystalline silica in Construction and Maritime, using the OSHA-adopted conversion factor of 0.1 milligrams per cubic meter (mg/m3) per 1 million particles per cubic foot (mppcf).

To view the new instruction, go to

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