Construction Coalition Petitions OSHA Silica Rule

The construction industry is not going away quietly regarding the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) controversial final crystalline silica rule.

Monday, eight construction industry organizations filed a petition for review of the rule, which was published late last month, with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

Petitioning groups included: Mississippi Road Builders’ Association, American Subcontractors Association of Texas, Pelican Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors, Louisiana Associated General Contractors (AGC), Associated Masonry Contractors of Texas, Distribution Contractors Association, Mechanical Contractors Associations of Texas and Texas Association of Builders.

According to a joint release from the groups, their affiliated national organizations will move to join the petition.

The construction and manufacturing industries—including the glass and glazing sector—have been raising concerns about OSHA’s proposal since it was pitched in 2013. OSHA claims the rule is intended to limit construction and general industry workers’ exposure to respirable crystalline silica by reducing the permissible exposure limit (PEL). It also requires employers to implement engineering controls, offer medical exams and develop control plans related to the issue.

The petitioning organizations note that the industry “presented substantial evidence that OSHA’s proposed PEL was technologically and economically infeasible” but that the agency moved forward with the PEL anyway.

“This and other final rule provisions display a fundamental misunderstanding of the real world of construction,” a statement from the groups reads. “The construction industry petitioners continue to be active participants in the rulemaking process and are dedicated to promoting healthy and safe construction jobsites.”

AGC chief executive officer Stephen Sandherr says its members “are deeply committed to taking every possible step to provide a safe construction environment including reducing silica exposure.” However, he says, “we have significant concerns about whether this new rule is technically feasible, given that the agency’s final permissible exposure limit is beyond the capacity of existing dust filtration and removal technology.”

Sandherr expects this to be the start of a “lengthy legal challenge to this measure.” He adds that AGC will continue to work with Congress and the next presidential administration to seek measures to improve the rule.

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