April 15, 2016
PCCA Joins with Coalition to Oppose OSHA Silica Rule
In March, the PCCA Board of Directors voted to work with the Construction Industry Safety Coalition (CISC) to oppose OSHA's recently issued final rule on silica exposure. The final rule was published in the Federal Register on March 25, and while it takes effect immediately, construction companies have until June 2017 to comply. The CISC intends to challenge the rule in court.
Silica is one of the most abundant substances on earth. It is most commonly found as sand or Quartz. Silica is ubiquitous on construction sites by virtue of its presence in many commonly used construction materials, including concrete, bricks, rocks, and stones. Construction activities that can generate/spread silica dust include jackhammering, grinding, tuckpointing, milling, rock crushing, drywall finishing, earthmoving, sawing, and drilling.
Currently, silica exposure limits are set at 250 micrograms for construction and 100 micrograms for other industries. The rule reduces the construction industry's permissible exposure level (PEL) for airborne silica by about 80 percent--from about 250 micrograms of respirable crystalline silica per cubic meter of air, averaged over an eight-hour day, to 50 micrograms. Construction employers will be required to ensure that employees are not exposed to silica levels above the PEL by using administrative or engineering controls or other protective measures used to keep workers’ exposure below the PEL when traditional controls are not sufficient.
More than 85 percent of the employers affected by OSHA’s crystalline silica rulemaking are involved in construction or construction-related activities. OSHA estimates the rule will result in approximately $511 million in costs to the industry while generating $3-5 billion in benefits. This stands in contrast to industry studies that show OSHA has underestimated the cost of the proposed rule by approximately a factor of six. CISC now estimates a cost to the industry of more than $3 billion per year, but this figure will probably increase as the coalition works to fix more of OSHA's errors in understanding how construction work is done.