Cal/OSHA Updates: Respirable Crystalline Silica, Beryllium, and Heat Illness Prevention

Cal/OSHA is now enforcing two regulations that were revised due to changes made by federal OSHA to the Respirable Crystalline Silica standard and the Beryllium standard both focused on the construction industry.

In 2005, California became the first state to promulgate an emergency regulation targeted at outdoor places of employment during hot weather months.  The Heat Illness Prevention regulation has since been revised.

This article will provide brief information on each with links to appropriate resources to assist employers understand their responsibilities and means and methods of complying with the various requirements.



In response to changes by federal OSHA to its standard on respirable crystalline silica, the Cal/OSHA Standards Board adopted those federal changes with little variation.  The California standard became effective and enforceable on October 23, 2017.

Key Provisions

  • Reduction of the Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) from 100 µ/M³ (Micrograms per cubic meter of air) to 50 µ/M³
  • A requirement for engineering controls (such as water or ventilation) to limit worker exposures
  • Limiting worker exposure to high exposure areas
  • Development of a written exposure control plan
  • Restriction of certain housekeeping activities
  • Provision of respirators to workers when engineering controls do not limit respirable crystalline silica below the required levels
  • Offering medical exams to highly exposed workers, and training workers on silica risks and how to limit exposures.

Resources for employers


As with the silica standard, changes in the federal beryllium standard resulted in the Cal/OSHA Standards Board adopting those changes incorporated into Title 8, § 1535.1.  The effective date for this revised standard was October 2, 2017.

Key Provisions

  • Permissible Exposure Limits – The Time-weighted average (TWA) PEL is established at 0.2µ/M³
  • Short-term exposure limit (STEL) The employer must ensure that no employee is exposed to an airborne concentration of beryllium in excess of 2.0 µ/M³ as determined over a sampling period of 15 minutes.
  • Exposure assessment – employers must assess the airborne exposure of each employee who is or may reasonably expected to be exposed to airborne beryllium. This can be accomplished by one of two methods: 1) Performance option – the employer must assess the 8-hour TWA exposure and the 15 minute short-term exposure for each employee on the basis of any combination of air monitoring data and objective data (for example that data provided by a manufacturer of a product); or 2) Scheduled monitoring option – the employer would need to perform initial monitoring for both the 8-hour TWA and the 15-minute STEL
  • Competent Person Wherever employees are, or can reasonably be expected to be, exposed to airborne beryllium at levels above the TWA PEL or STEL, the employer must designate a competent person
  • Methods of Compliance a Written Exposure Control Plan is required
  • Respiratory Protection under specified conditions, employers must provide respiratory protection at no cost to the employee and ensure that each employee uses respiratory protection
  • Personal Protective Clothing and Equipment employers must provide, at no cost, and ensure that employee uses, appropriate personal protective clothing and equipment in accordance with the written exposure control plan and in Title 8 § 1514 “Personal Protective Devices”
  • Hygiene Areas and Practices specifies certain requirements such as accessible washing facilities, change rooms, and eating and drinking areas.
  • Housekeeping specifies certain cleaning requirements for beryllium-contaminated areas
  • Medical Surveillance employers must make medical surveillance required by this subsection available at no cost to employees when necessary
  • Medical Removal identifies those criteria that must be met when considering medical removal
  • Communication of Hazards specifies the measures that must be met to ensure effective communication to employees of information regarding hazards of beryllium-containing products, and expectations for training employees
  • Recordkeeping this subsection addresses the need to maintain records concerning beryllium exposures

Resources for Employers

  • The exact language of Title 8 § 1535.1 can be reviewed at
  • As the federal and state standards are the same, the federal OSHA publication “OSHA Fact Sheet – Protecting Workers from Exposure to Beryllium and Beryllium Compounds – Final Rule Overview” is a good source of information –
  • The Society of Protective Coatings website contains information regarding training and certification programs –


California was the first state in the nation to implement an emergency temporary standard to protect outdoor workers from the hazards of working in high heat situations. The regulation was formally adopted as California Code of Regulations Title 8, Section 3395.

According to subpart (b) of the regulation, “Heat Illness” means a serious medical condition resulting from the body’s inability to cope with a particular heat load, and includes heat cramps, heat exhaustion, heat syncope and heat stroke.

Elements of a written program and effective work practices include:

  • Effective communication
  • Weather monitoring
  • Drinking water
  • Shade/cooling
  • Work severity and duration
  • Rest
  • Acclimatization
  • High heat procedures
  • Clothing and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
  • Emergency response procedures
  • Training

Following are several links for additional information including the regulation itself, an etool and a sample program:

Important note:  when utilizing this document, the employer must customize the sample procedures to reflect the specifics of their company, particularly with the names of foremen/supervisors who will be responsible for each of the distinct program areas.

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