May 19, 2022

Are you ready for OSHA's new inspection priorities?

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) saw its enforcement budget increase in 2022. Do you know what they will be watching for at Colorado workplaces?

In February 2022, OSHA issued two Regional Emphasis Programs within the cut stone and stone products industry and the food, wood product, primary metal, and fabricated metal manufacturing industries in Region VIII, which includes Colorado.

“While REPs enforce standards that are already in place, they are designed to raise attention to hazards in industries that are particularly risky," notes Pinnacol Industrial Hygienist Joan Brown.

Here's everything you need to know about these two REPs:

Respirable Crystalline Silica in Cut Stone and Slab Handling

The hazards:

As employees cut, saw, grind, or polish stone, they may be exposed to airborne silica dust. Inhalation of elevated levels of respirable crystalline silica (RCS) can cause multiple diseases, including silicosis – an incurable, but preventable, lung disease that can lead to disability and death. Exposure to RCS can also cause lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and kidney disease.

The new program:

In February 2022, OSHA issued a REP for respirable crystalline silica (RCS) and slab handling in the cut stone and stone products industry. The inspection program is designed to identify and reduce RCS exposure as well as struck-by and crushing hazards when handling granite, marble, limestone, slate, and other stone slabs.

Facilities where workers may be exposed to RCS at or above the action level of 25 ug/M3 must comply with OSHA's respirable crystalline silica standard. In addition, it covers employees working in stone products manufacturing who move stone slabs on and off vehicles and throughout the fabrication shop. OSHA has more details on slab-handling hazards.

Noise in Manufacturing

The hazards:

Every year thousands of workers suffer from preventable hearing loss due to high workplace noise levels. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 22 million workers are exposed to potentially damaging noise at work each year. Exposure to high noise levels can cause temporary or permanent hearing loss or sensitivity, tinnitus, or acoustical trauma and can also have other negative health effects, such as increased physiological stress, muscle tension, loss of sleep, inability to concentrate, and communication difficulties.

The new program:

In February 2022, OSHA issued an REP for certain industries in manufacturing that have hearing loss incident rates of at least nine times the national average. The inspection program is designed to identify, reduce, and eliminate exposure to the hazard of excessive noise levels.

Among the industries that are particularly affected are manufacturing, where the rate of exposure to excessive noise was 8.6 per 10,000, more than six times higher than the rate for all private industry. In prefabricated wood building manufacturing, the rate of hearing loss was astonishingly high at 31.1, approximately 22 times the rate for private industry.

This chart shows the industries affected by the new REP:

Find out more at the OSHA Occupational Noise Exposure Standard.

Pinnacol Can Help Today

Even if you're not in one of the industries highlighted in this article, now is the time to evaluate your employees' exposure and determine if you need to make changes to protect your workers and comply with the requirements. Pinnacol's Safety Team has the expertise and specialized equipment to perform a free evaluation and then offer suggestions for modifications that will ensure you are in compliance.

To request industrial hygiene services or speak to an industrial hygienist, please contact Safety On Call at