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SILICA: With a federal deadline looming, here’s what Washington contractors should know

You’ve probably been hearing a lot about new silica rules and here is what you need to know as a contractor in Washington. Presently, OSHA’s silica rule (published in the Federal Register since March of 2016) is in litigation right now from a lawsuit filed by a business coalition. We have seen a few postponements of enforcement on this rule over that time period. The court case is set to be heard on September 26th, 2017. Active enforcement on this rule, however, begins on September 23rd, 2017.

In a letter released this week, OSHA states there will be a thirty-day grace period in which enforcement activities will still take place but citations will not be written if the employer is showing “good faith efforts” to comply. But these rules only apply to OSHA jurisdiction. In Washington, we have just begun the rulemaking process.

Here are some key factors you need to be aware of:

• Washington rule makers intend to adopt OSHA-identical language. A preliminary draft is available here.

• Our rule will be adopted in December and have an effective date of January or February.

• Public hearings on our draft rule will take place in November. Stay tuned for updates as soon as we know dates, we will share.

• Some portions of the Washington rule will have a staggered enforcement, meaning that some elements of the rules here will not be enforced until as late as next fall.

• You should be looking at your policy and training on silica to be sure that you are ready. Here are some helpful resources:

– If you do not have a written plan, this online tool will help you build your plan and also has some training materials.

– If you want to better understand the main method of compliance with the rules, following Table 1, you can view the Laborer’s Health & Safety Fund page that has a great visual representation of the table requirements.

As always, once our state has a final draft of the rule language to work with, we will offer training resources, toolbox talks, and policy help. In the meantime, remember that work within OSHA’s jurisdiction (federal installations, over navigable waterways, etc.) should already be compliant with the federal rule.

We’re here to help, so let us know if we can be of service! Contact Mandi with questions on silica or other rules.

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