OSHA to Delay Enforcing Silica Rule

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has announced a delay in enforcement of the crystalline silica standard that applies to the construction industry so it can conduct additional outreach and provide educational materials and guidance for employers.

The agency has determined that additional guidance is necessary due to the unique nature of the requirements in the construction standard. Originally scheduled to begin June 23, 2017, enforcement will now begin September 23, 2017.

OSHA expects employers in the construction industry to continue to take steps either to come into compliance with the new permissible exposure limit, or to implement specific dust controls for certain operations.

The rule, which was announced in March 2016, reduces the permissible exposure limit (PEL) for workers. It also requires employers to implement engineering controls, offer medical exams and develop control plans related to the issue.

The construction and glass industries have not been fans of the regulation.

In late March, National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) first vice chair Randy Noel, a home builder from LaPlace, La., testified before the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee about the tangle of regulations the construction industry faces. As an example, he cited the silica rule, which OSHA said carried a cost estimate to the industry of approximately $511 million per year.

However, an independent study found that the true cost would be nearly $5 billion per year. The study found that the OSHA cost analysis had omitted some 1.5 million workers in the construction industry who routinely work with silica-containing materials, and it failed to account for a variety of indirect costs associated with set-up, clean-up, materials and productivity penalties.

Silica is indispensable to flat glass production.

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