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Posted By Chris Alberts, Western States Roofing Contractors Association, Monday, October 15, 2018
Updated: Monday, October 15, 2018


Courtesy of: Trent Cotney and Travis McConnell

Cotney Construction Law
866.303.5868 |


The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) controversial rule regulating exposure to respirable crystalline silica (silica) took effect on June 23, 2016. Enforcement of the new standard began on September 23, 2017 for those working in the construction industry, and on June 23, 2018 for the general industry.

The key provision with the greatest impact on the roofing industry is the stricter permissible exposure limit (PEL) for respirable crystalline silica. Silica is a common mineral found in concrete, brick, mortar, and other construction materials. Workers may be exposed to silica when performing tasks, such as: cutting masonry, operating jackhammers, drills, grinders, or using other heavy equipment. In the roofing industry, silica exposure commonly occurs as the result of cutting, crushing, drilling, or blasting cement roofing tiles. Yet, other common roofing activities may also lead to employee exposure.

OSHA’s new exposure limit reduces the allowable silica exposure from 250 to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air averaged over a traditional eight-hour shift, a limitation that is five times lower than what was previously required for the construction industry. This degree of change in the regulatory standard is unprecedented for any industry. As a result, contractors will be required to comply with more burdensome rules mandating air monitoring procedures, use of respirators, medical examinations, testing, equipment maintenance, and will frequently be required to purchase new equipment which is compliant.

The rule requires employers to limit workers’ exposure to silica and provides two compliance options: follow Table 1 or implement alternative exposure control methods. Table 1 consists of 18 construction-related activities and details engineering controls, as well as the specific conditions which would require employees to wear respirators. For example, Table 1 requires that contractors use a saw equipped with an integrated water delivery system when using stationary masonry saws to cut material containing silica. When using a handheld drill to penetrate material containing silica, Table 1 requires contractors to use a drill with a dust collection system filter with 99% or greater efficiency and a filter-cleaning mechanism (along with other requirements).


Author’s note:  The information contained in this article is for general educational information only.  This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.


Trent Cotney, CEO of Cotney Construction Law, is an advocate for the roofing industry and General Counsel of Western States Roofing Contractors Association (WSRCA).  For more information, contact the author at 866.303.5868 or go to 

All rights reserved.  All content (text, trademarks, illustrations, reports, photos, logos, graphics, files, designs, arrangements, etc.) in this Technical Opinion (“Opinion”) is the intellectual property of Western States Roofing Contractors Association (WSRCA) and is protected by the applicable protective laws governing intellectual property. The Opinion is intended for the exclusive use by its members as a feature of their membership. This document is intended to be used for educational purposes only, and no one should act or rely solely on any information contained in this Opinion as it is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney or construction engineer with specific project knowledge. Neither WSRCA nor any of its, contractors, subcontractors, or any of their employees, directors, officers, agents, or assigns make any warranty, express or implied, or assumes any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or any third party’s use (or the results of such use) of any information or process disclosed in the Opinion.  Reference herein to any general or specific commercial product, process or service does not necessarily constitute or imply its endorsement or recommendation by WSRCA. References are provided as citations and aids to help identify and locate other resources that may be of interest, and are not intended to state or imply that WSRCA sponsors, is affiliated or associated with, or is legally responsible for the content reflected in those resources. WSRCA has no control over those resources and the inclusion of any references does not necessarily imply the recommendation or endorsement of same.


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