Cement and aggregate interests read OSHA rule writing on MSHA wall

Sources: Occupational Safety & Health Administration; CP staff

One of the most thorough cases challenging OSHA’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for Occupational Exposure to Respirable Crystalline Silica is from a group representing producers not immediately affected by a change in the permissible exposure limit (PEL) threshold: National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association.

“Many of our vertically integrated company members incorporate aggregates into concrete using portland cement or asphalt cement. OSHA’s proposal—which is estimated to cost billions of dollars and thousands of jobs annually—thus directly impacts many of our members’ operations and virtually all of their customers’ operations,” notes NSSGA President Michael Johnson, opening 30 pages of comments. “However, the majority of aggregates facilities are regulated by the Mine Safety and Health Administration [whose] intent to initiate silica rulemaking for the mining industry is a matter of public record. That agency will largely rely on OSHA’s regulatory analysis to do so.”

NSSGA strongly recommends OSHA retain the current 100 μg/m3 PEL for respirable crystalline silica, he adds, noting: “We believe that an objective rendering of the relevant scientific evidence demonstrates that the existing PEL provides adequate protection when it is fully complied with and fully enforced. While we acknowledge that OSHA may lack sufficient resources to enforce the current PEL across all industry, lowering the current PEL and imposing an even lower Action Level will not improve compliance; it will do the opposite. Instead, OSHA should require employers to formally assess exposures and control those that exceed the current PEL, and to maintain the results of such assessments for inspection by OSHA compliance officers. Employers should provide reasonable medical surveillance for employees with exposures in excess of the current PEL.”

On behalf of Indiana-based Irving Materials Inc., with ready mixed and aggregate operations subject to OSHA and MSHA regulations, Employee Health & Safety Manager Walter Tharp tells OSHA: “Our highest values concern the safety and health of those who we employ. We actively encourage employee participation in our safety efforts and operate under the premise that nothing that we do is worth someone being injured or having their health compromised. Providing the information and the tools for our employees to perform their jobs in a healthy manner and safely is our never-ending quest.”

To simplify the proposed rule, he adds, OSHA should remove the Action Level requirement, as it presents enormous and unresolved measurability challenges. “OSHA should not require employers to assess exposures for each job title on each work shift unless a significant difference exists between the environment and/or work tasks performed on the different shifts, so that there is a reasonable basis to expect different exposures,” Tharp contends.

Outlining Lafarge North America’s concrete, cement and aggregate operations—and stake in OSHA and MSHA rules—Vice President of Public Affairs, Environment and Land Craig Campbell echoes NSSGA’s sentiments on the adequacy of the existing PEL, provided full compliance and enforcement. “At Lafarge, we employ a health and safety management system as well as multiple internal standards to manage risks and protect our most important asset, our employees,” he affirms. “This also includes a robust industrial hygiene monitoring program to assess employee exposure to various physical and chemical agents, as well as the use of control strategies and medical surveillance programs to manage these risks.”

For full text of comments, click source:

Lafarge North America
Irving Materials
National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association