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TAUC Joins Advocates for Better Silica Regulations, Calls for Comment Extension

September 30 2013

The Association of Union Constructors (TAUC) is pleased to announce it has joined the Construction Industry Safety Coalition, a new coalition of national construction industry trade associations that want a practical and cost-effective crystalline silica regulation that will improve the safety and health protection of workers.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in the Federal Register on Sept. 12 that lays out a new set of regulations covering crystalline silica. Coalition members are now reviewing the proposed rule. OSHA has also created a special silica page that can be found here.

TAUC recognizes the importance of the Coalition and encourages its members to review the proposed standard and submit comments.

The members of the Coalition believe workplace safety and health is a priority and each is committed to helping create safer construction jobsites for workers.

The Coalition represents thousands of employers working to protect hundreds of thousands of workers in all facets of construction from home building to road repair, and from heavy industrial production to specialty trade contractors and material suppliers. It was formed to advocate that OSHA develop technologically feasible alternatives for compliance with a silica rule that also address costs and consistency with existing federal regulations and do not overly burden small businesses.

Work-related exposures to silica in construction operations are different from those of other industries, because construction tasks and activities are highly variable and change constantly as projects progress. With a complex rule such as the one that OSHA is proposing, the agency will need to consider factors specific to construction.

OSHA’s proposed silica rule may have the largest impact of any rulemaking undertaken by the agency regarding the construction industry, which estimates compliance costs of $1-$2 billion per year, at a time when most segments of the industry have not yet recovered from the economic downturn. In addition, there has already been a 93 percent drop in the rate of silica-related deaths between 1968 and 2007, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Silica is ubiquitous and occurs in many commonly used building products including concrete, stucco, plaster, bricks/blocks, and rocks/stones. Workers can be exposed during certain construction activities such as cutting brick or block, tuck pointing, sawing, grinding, or drilling concrete.

The construction industry will likely be saddled with onerous new requirements and the proposed silica standard may substantially alter its competitive structure. OSHA’s regulatory approach should use the most cost-effective means while still ensuring compliance and worker safety.

Coalition Calls for Comment Extension

On Sept. 27, the Coalition sent a letter to OSHA Assistant Secretary of Labor David Michaels and requested a 90-day extension (to March 14, 2014) to file comments on the agency’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.

“While we appreciate OSHA’s interests in moving expeditiously with the rulemaking process, we respectfully assert that the current 90-day pre-hearing comment period and the other established deadlines are insufficient to allow stakeholders to thoroughly review the rulemaking record, analyze data outside of the record, and prepare thoughtful, data-driven comments that can assist the agency in its decision-making process,” the Coalition wrote.

The letter noted that OSHA’s notice runs 230 pages – and that’s not even counting the supporting materials related to risk and feasibility. Stakeholders need time to first review the rule and OSHA’s supporting analyses and then write their own detailed comments — and back them up with data and analyses. “Performing all of these tasks within 90 days is virtually impossible,” the Coalition wrote.

The Construction Industry Safety Coalition members are:

  • American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA)
  • American Subcontractors Association (ASA)
  • Associated Builder and Contractors (ABC)
  • Associated General Contractors (AGC)
  • Association of the Wall and Ceiling Industry (AWCI)
  • Concrete Sawing & Drilling Association
  • Construction & Demolition Recycling Association
  • Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute
  • International Council of Employers of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers (ICE)
  • Marble Institute of America
  • Mason Contractors Association of America (MCAA)
  • Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCA)
  • National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)
  • National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA)
  • National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA)
  • Natural Stone Council
  • The Association of Union Constructors (TAUC)
  • The Roofing Institute
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