Calling the new federal silica standard “unobtainable,” as well as costly and disruptive, contractors, a construction industry coalition, the aggregates industry and others are claiming the new OSHA silica standard is a missed opportunity to improve workplace safety without adding an additional regulatory burden on employers.
Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez and Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels announced March 24 that OSHA would publish a final workplace exposure standard for crystalline silica that cuts the permissible exposure limit in half. The new rule establishes two standards – one for general industry and maritime and one for the construction industry – and limits exposure to an 8-hour time-weighted average of 50 micrograms of respirable crystalline silica per cubic meter of air.
“Instead of crafting new and innovative ways to get more firms to comply with the current silica standard, which we know would save even more workers each year, administration officials appear to have instead opted to set a new standard that is well beyond the capabilities of current air filtration and dust removal technologies,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the CEO of the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC). “Wishing firms could meet this new but unattainable standard will undoubtedly deliver many positive headlines for the administration, but it will be all but impossible for most construction firms to comply with this new rule.”