In June of this year, the construction industry was to be the first to meet a compliance deadline under OSHA’s new silica rule. Now, OSHA says, it will delay that deadline by at least 90 days.

In a memorandum dated April 6, 2017, OSHA Deputy Assistant Secretary Dorothy Dougherty notified the agency’s regional administrators to delay enforcement of the new rule’s requirements. She explained that for the construction industry, “all obligations [under the new rule] were to commence on June 23, 2017,” except for certain requirements for sample analysis.

However, she noted that the construction industry portion of the silica rule “has a number of unique features warranting development of additional guidance materials.” OSHA is delaying enforcement of the rule so that it has time for “additional outreach to the regulated community,” as well as to train its compliance officers. OSHA says that it is “currently developing educational materials for employers and enforcement guidance” for inspectors, which will be available shortly. The memo asks that OSHA compliance officers share these materials and compliance guidance with employers.

OSHA still expects compliance

In a press release, OSHA said that it “expects employers in the construction industry to continue to take steps either to come into compliance with the new permissible exposure limit, or to implement specific dust controls for certain operations as provided in Table 1 of the standard. Construction employers should also continue to prepare to implement the standard’s other requirements, including exposure assessment, medical surveillance and employee training.”

Silica rule’s overall fate remains uncertain

According to EHSToday, construction industry groups praised the delay while still raising concerns about the rule taking effect at any time. Meanwhile, supporters of the rule disputed that any delay was necessary.

The delay comes while the rule is still under challenge in court. As we reported in March, so far, the Trump administration appears to be defending the rule in litigation. However, Labor Secretary nominee Alexander Acosta was non-committal on the rule’s future during his confirmation hearing.