OSHA’s Proposed Silica Rule Raises Concerns
A coalition of construction industry groups is concerned about a proposed rule from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) that’s intended to protect workers from inhaling dust containing silica, created by activities such as cutting brick or block, and sawing, grinding or drilling concrete.
“We need practical, science-based solutions that protect workers in all facets of construction,” said Rick Judson, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). “Unfortunately, OSHA’s initial announcement about this proposed rule indicates we are not there yet.”
Announced August 23 in a press conference that laid out few details, the proposed rule seems to call for one-size-fits-all measures that contradict existing safety and quality assurance practices for different types of contractors.
For instance, spraying water to reduce dust may be practical in some construction projects, but using it inside a home while cutting granite counters can cause mold. In cold weather, spraying water while cutting asphalt roof shingles could cause ice to form on the slanted surface, endangering workers. Ventilation and dust-capture systems can inhibit the safe operation of tools. And if prescribed measures are not practicable, contractors might be forced to eliminate products with silica altogether, including concrete, brick, granite, and other common construction materials.
Independent studies have estimated costs for construction industry compliance will exceed $1 billion per year.
NAHB is part of the Construction Industry Safety Coalition, which is seeking a feasible and cost-effective crystalline silica regulation that improves safety and health protection measures for workers. The coalition represents thousands of employers working to protect hundreds of thousand workers in home buildings, road repair, heavy industrial production, specialty trades and materials supply.
It was formed to encourage OSHA to develop better choices for compliance with the construction-specific silica rule: alternatives that also address costs, consistency with existing federal regulations and do not overly burden small businesses.