Contractor coalition, Chamber: OSHA silica rule unworkable, economically infeasible

Sources: Construction Industry Safety Coalition, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Washington, D.C.

Two weeks after closing the public comment period for its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for Occupational Exposure to Respirable Crystalline Silica, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is continuing to process documents from individuals, companies and organizations challenging the agency’s math and embrace of air-monitoring technology for workplaces and job sites.

In addition to ready mixed and manufactured-concrete producers—and the six major national groups representing them—OSHA has received strongly worded comments from two broad-based organizations questioning a proposed reduction of the permissible exposure limit for respirable silica in General Industry and Construction.

“The Construction Industry Safety Coalition (CISC) and its members recognize the hazards posed by crystalline silica at construction worksites [and] that it is incumbent upon the construction industry to take measures to protect employees from exposure to crystalline silica … OSHA’s proposed crystalline silica rule for construction is potentially the most far-reaching regulatory initiative for the industry,” CISC explains in comments to the agency.

“OSHA has preliminarily concluded that this regulatory scheme is required to reduce the significant risk of silicosis and other adverse health outcomes [and] that the proposal would be economically feasible, resulting in an overall annual cost to the construction industry of approximately a half a billion dollars. CISC has reviewed the proposed rule and supporting analyses and, for numerous reasons, believes that the Agency has not met its burden of demonstrating that the proposal is technologically and economically feasible.”

Adding to those sentiments are comments from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce: “To demonstrate economic feasibility, OSHA must first produce a complete and accurate assessment of the costs of compliance with the proposed rule as the basis for comparisons to revenues and profits, and OSHA has not done so. OSHA has entirely failed to consider important aspects of the problem of assessing the costs and economic feasibility of the proposed rule, including the variability of compliance costs across the distribution of facilities, the effect of the proposed compliance schedule on compliance cost and feasibility, the extreme uncertainty surrounding its cost estimate, and the impact of the proposed rule to create a shortage of industrial hygiene professionals.

“Considering all of the flaws, errors and omissions in OSHA’s analysis, the compliance cost for this proposed rule may range from $1.5 billion to $6 billion or more per year. Such a high range of uncertainty suggests that the risk is too great to support a regulatory decision based on the available data and analysis. There is too much that is unknown and uncertain. Even the lower end of the likely cost range would imply economic infeasibility for many employers and the upper end of the possible cost range would imply economic infeasibility for most employers.”

OSHA logged 3,000-plus comments submitted from September–February in response to Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for Occupational Exposure to Respirable Crystalline Silica. The agency will proceed with a series of public hearings on the proposed rule around the country, beginning in mid-March.

For full text of Comments, click source:

Construction Industry Safety Coalition
U.S. Chamber of Commerce