By Nick Goldstein, vice president of regulatory affairs & assistant general counsel, ARTBA

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is giving the construction industry a little breathing room to comply with its new standard for crystalline silica exposure, which takes effect Sept. 23. In a Sept. 20 memorandum, OSHA said that for the first 30 days of the new rule, it will consider whether or not employers are making “good faith” efforts to meet the new standard before issuing a citation.

Agency enforcement begins as oral arguments in ARTBA’s legal challenge to the rule are scheduled to be heard Sept. 26 in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. ARTBA has maintained that OSHA’s standard is based on flawed science and unrealistic assumptions about the construction industry and could divert significant resources—human and financial—away from activities aimed at mitigating, if not eliminating, documented, serious hazards to workers’ health and safety.

Crystalline silica is a basic component of dust from soil, sand, granite and other minerals associated with construction. The standard, which is being challenged by ARTBA and industry allies in federal court, sets limit of 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air, averaged over an eight-hour shift, compared to the previous level of 250 micrograms for the construction industry.