Dive Brief:

Virginia Occupational Safety and Health Compliance has issued five citations for crystalline silica dust-related violations and other violations to a Roanoke, Virginia, contractor and has proposed a total of $304,130 in fines. According to Bloomberg Environment, this could be the largest fine imposed to date under the new silica rule.


The agency issued highway construction company Lanford Brothers Co. violation citations for not ensuring employees doing concrete work on a bridge wore the proper eyewear (serious; $8,065); for allowing a temporary worker to remove concrete from the deck of a bridge without proper silica dust training (serious; $8,065); for requiring workers to use jackhammers as part of concrete removal without the use of wet methods and without the proper respiratory protection (willful-serious; $96,000); for not assessing each employee's potential exposure to silica dust (willful-serious; $96,000) and for not providing adequate respiratory equipment and medical evaluations (willful-serious; $96,000).


Lanford had 15 days from the date of issuance to contest the violations and fines. For those violations that go unchallenged, Lanford must take steps to correct the conditions leading to the original violation and submit to the agency detailed information related to abatement activity. 


Dive Insight:

Virginia is one of 26 states and two U.S. territories that have their own OSHA-approved safety plans. State programs in Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, New Jersey, New York and the Virgin Islands cover state and local government workplaces only, while the remainder, including Virginia, cover both private and public workplaces.


States choosing to operate their own plans and not just rely on OSHA's federal standards and enforcement resources must still ensure their rules are at least as effective. However, state safety officials have the opportunity to make their programs more stringent than OSHA's and have the leeway to expand into focus areas that the federal agency might not address. State-level enforcers also have the authority to assign higher fines than OSHA mandates.


Both OSHA and its state counterparts have been busy enforcing the relatively new silica dust exposure standard. As of April 17, they had issued 116 silica-related citations, the majority for not measuring silica dust levels and not adhering to certain air monitoring requirements. Full enforcement of the standard began Oct. 23, 2017, after a 30-day delay. OSHA said it wanted to give companies time to comply, although some in the industry maintain that the rule is still too ambiguous.