Respirable Crystalline Silica Standard for Construction

One of the hottest topics around the “safety table” for construction involves the new OSHA standard developed to protect exposed workers from the respirable crystalline silica. The enforcement date for Construction began September 23, 2017, for all obligations of the standard except methods of sample analysis which will be enforced starting June 23, 2018.

Many in the construction industry are examining their workplace exposures to silica and trying to determine the best approach to protect employees while developing an appropriate Exposure Control Plan (ECP) based on the applicability of their operations to the new standard.  The following information is designed to assist those who are still trying to understand and comply with the OSHA requirements under 1926.1153.

The standard applies to all occupational exposures to respirable crystalline silica in construction work, except where employee’s exposures are below the Action Level (AL) which is 25 micrograms per cubic meter of air as an 8-hour time-weighted average (TWA) under any foreseeable conditions.


According to the standard, employers must use engineering controls and work practices as the primary way to keep exposures at or below the PEL (50 micrograms per cubic meter of air as an 8-hour TWA). Example controls that may be used to keep silica-containing dust out of the air and out of workers’ lungs include:

The standard also contains a unique, flexible option for employers whose employees are engaged in the construction tasks listed in Table 1(recreated by AGC) at 29 CFR 1926.1153(c)(1).

The employer must comply with paragraph (d) (the PEL, exposure assessment and methods of compliance requirements) for all employees engaged in (or in proximity to) tasks not listed on Table 1 or where the employer has not fully and properly implemented the engineering controls, work practice and respiratory protection listed in Table 1. In doing so, employers must maintain air monitoring records or other data used to assess exposures.

Exposure Assessment

Under 29 CFR 1926.1153(d)(2), employers must assess the exposure of each employee who is or may be potentially exposed to respirable crystalline silica at or above the AL using either the performance option or the scheduled monitoring option.

Performance Option

This assessment allows employers to assess the 8-hour TWA exposure for each employee on the basis of any combination of air monitoring data or objective data sufficient to accurately characterize employee exposures to respirable crystalline silica.

AGC has put together an example silica monitoring form.

Scheduled Monitoring Option

This exposure assessment option requires both initial monitoring as soon as the work begins to determine exposure levels and implement controls as well as periodic monitoring at specified intervals based on the most recent results. The monitoring must assess the 8-hour TWA exposure for each employee on the basis of one or more personal breathing zone air samples that reflect the exposures on each shift, each job classification and work area.

Exposure Control Plan (ECP)

Employers must establish and implement a written exposure control plan (ECP) that contains certain specified elements. The written ECP will designate a Competent Person to make frequent and regular inspections of job sites, materials and equipment to ensure the ECP is implemented. The written ECP must be reviewed at least annually to evaluate the effectiveness of it and update it as necessary.

An example Respirable Crystalline Silica Program and Exposure Control Plan can help guide you through this process.

Other Requirements Include:

Click Here to Download the Full Resource Guide Respirable Crystalline Silica Standard for Construction: Protecting Your Employees and Staying Compliant.

If you have any questions or would like to discuss these new OSHA standards, please feel free to contact me directly at or at 410.769.6498.