OSHA’s First Regional Emphasis Program on Silica in Stone Cutting Becomes Effective May 2022
Updated: May 9, 2022
On February 8, 2022, OSHA’s Region 8 (CO, MT, SD, ND, WY, UT) issued the first Regional Emphasis Program (REP) on silica in cut stone and slab handling. OSHA will begin enforcing this REP on May 17, 2022; it is set to in 2027. On February 4, 2020, OSHA issued a National Emphasis Program (NEP) regarding on Crystalline Silica without any expiration date. While the 2020 NEP addresses the hazards associated with silica, lists the targeted industries, explains the inspection procedures for addressing possible silica exposures, and mandates state plans and local and regional offices comply, the Region 8 REP goes further and includes the handling of slabs, captures establishments with fewer than ten employees, and provides for a noise evaluation by the inspector. All these inspection activities address distinct hazards associated with the industry sector. Region 8 stone cutting employers should conduct an internal assessment and take a snapshot of how they stack up to the silica and beyond as the REP sets forth. It is good preventive medicine.
Stone cutting operations located outside of Region 8 should take heed and do a similar assessment. Even though OSHA may come to your facility as a targeted employer under the NEP, inspectors always manage to find a way to “look around” to see what is in “plain view.” It is also good safety practice to step back and take a second look at how tasks are performed.
The other thing to keep in mind when OSHA puts out these NEPs and REPs: affected employees should be made aware of the emphasis being placed on the work that they do. During inspections, inspectors will ask employees if they are aware of specific OSHA programs and when they respond in the negative, it makes the employer look less knowledgeable and caring.