OSHA announces rule on respirable silica dust
OSHA announced on 24 March a final rule to improve protections for workers exposed to respirable silica dust. OSHA estimates that when the final rule becomes fully effective, it will save more than 600 lives annually and prevent more than 900 new cases of silicosis each year.
“The previous exposure limits were outdated and did not adequately protect workers,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr David Michaels. The final rule will improve worker protection by:
• Reducing the permissible exposure limit for crystalline silica to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air, averaged over an eight-hour shift.
• Requiring employers to use engineering controls, such as water or ventilation, and work practices to limit worker exposure; provide respiratory protection when controls are not able to limit exposures to the permissible level; limit access to high exposure areas; train workers; and provide medical exams to highly exposed workers.
• Providing greater certainty and ease of compliance to construction employers.
• Staggering compliance dates to ensure employers have sufficient time to meet the requirements, e.g., extra time for the hydraulic fracturing industry to install new engineering controls and for all general industry employers to offer medical surveillance to employees exposed between the permissible exposure limit and 50 micrograms per cubic meter and the action level of 25 micrograms per cubic meter.
The final rule is written as two standards, one for construction and one for general industry and maritime. Employers covered by the general industry and maritime standard have until 23 June 2018 to comply with most requirements. Additional time is provided to offer medical exams to some workers and for hydraulic fracturing employers to install dust controls to meet the new exposure limit.
Railroad Commission of Texas issues clarifications to Statewide Rule 13
On 4 March, the Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC) issued clarifications to Statewide Rule 13 – Casing, Cementing, Drilling, Well Control, and Completion Requirements.
In January 2014, the RRC amended Rule 13, the primary purpose of which is to protect fresh water and maintain well control. Rule 13 included language that could significantly impact onshore contractors, where the rule would have meant the difference between a contractor moving ahead or idling a drilling rig due to the extraordinary cost of modifying equipment. The newly issued clarifications address these concerns.