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Fall protection and silica dust violations

Author: GMI Engineered Products April 6, 2017

OSHA has been targeting two particular situations that construction workers encounter on the job site: falls and silica dust. Here is a breakdown of what you need to know.


Preventable falls are the leading cause of death and injury, accounting for 40% of all deaths in the construction industry.
Relevant violations:

  • August 2016 – OSHA fined a Burbank, IL, contractor, JW Construction & Plastering, Inc., $80,741 for failing to provide adequate fall protection. Employees were exposed to fall hazards up to 25 feet, as they applied stucco without appropriate personal protective equipment.
  • October 2016 – New Jersey-based Station Builders was fined $291,997 for failure to provide personal protective equipment and fall protection to its employees.
  • November 2016 – Ohio-based A&W Roofing was fined $307,824 for violations on a worksite in Pittsburgh, which included working without the correct protection from falls.

Silica dust

Safety experts say that exposure to silica dust can cause respiratory problems, including lung damage. Silica is found mainly in quartz, cristobalite, and tridymite and has been found to cause health issues such as silicosis, lung cancer, COPD, kidney disease, and lung cancer.
In 2016, OSHA implemented a new measure that reduced the amount of allowed silica exposure down to 50 micrograms during an eight-hour period. This is down from the previous regulation of 250 micrograms per cubic meter. Additionally, companies are required to record employee exposure to silica and provide medical examinations for exposed workers.
Relevant violations:

  • August 2016 – Illinois company JW Construction & Plastering, Inc. was fined for failure to provide protective equipment and safety training to work with silica and cement.
  • August 25, 2016 – OSHA issued the same company two willful, two repeated and three serious safety violations after inspectors visited the site. This company was cited for similar violations back in 2014.

The respirable crystalline silica rule was published by OSHA in March 2016. This issue is said to affect two million construction workers involved in cutting, crushing, drilling or grinding materials that contain silica. It also affects 300,000 employees in general industry operations like foundries, hydraulic fracturing, and brick manufacturing.

Companies that work with silica have up to five years to comply with the rule that took effect on June 23, 2016. The law is being challenged legally, but until something changes, the following compliance dates are in effect:

  • June 23, 2017 – Construction
  • June 23, 2018 – General Industry and Maritime
  • June 23, 2018 – Hydraulic Fracturing
  • June 23, 2021 – Engineering Controls within Hydraulic Fracturing

It is wise to keep these silica changes in mind, and perhaps mandate additional safety training on fall prevention to keep your employees safe and healthy.