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October 30, 2013
OSHA extends comment period on silica standard; Critics voice opposition

OSHA has extended the comment period for proposed rulemaking on silica by nearly 50 days. The original deadline to submit written comments and testimony has been changed from December 11, 2013 to January 27, 2014.

OSHA is also extending the deadline to submit notices of intention to appear at public hearings scheduled to begin on March 18, 2014. While initially the deadline was November 12, anyone who wishes to appear at a hearing now has until December 12 to submit the required notice. OSHA administrator Dr. David Michaels said the comment period is being extended to ensure that OSHA hears from all who wish to voice their views.

He added, “We especially hope to hear from employers, workers, and public health professionals who have experience in successfully protecting workers from silica-related diseases.”

Some industry groups opposed

Among those requesting an extension of the deadline was the newly formed Construction Industry Safety Coalition. It is made up of industry trade groups that oppose OSHA’s silica proposal. Members include the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), Associated General Contractors (AGC), and National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), among other trade groups and unions.

A major concern is the cost of compliance. The groups cite independent studies that estimate compliance with similar provisions to cost more than $1 billion per year. The coalition has urged OSHA to offer alternatives for compliance that address cost and consistency with other regulations and do not overly burden small businesses.

OSHA’s own estimates claim that a small business in general industry could expect compliance with the proposed standard to cost approximately $2,600 per year. For construction, the agency estimates that compliance will cost employers approximately $1,000 per year. Furthermore, OSHA estimates that the proposed rule would provide net benefits ranging from $2.8 billion to $4.7 billion annually over the next 60 years.® has everything you need to stay informed about OSHA’s silica proposal and protect your workers from the hazards of silica exposure. Check out our Silica Exposure resource center for essential information, training materials, and more.

Commented ABC vice president of government affairs Geoff Burr, “OSHA still has not explained how a lowered PEL will be effective at reducing the number of silica-related illnesses, particularly when the agency has admitted its failure to properly enforce the existing standard.”

Other opponents have pointed out that the rule favors one-size-fits-all measures that contradict existing safety and quality assurance practices. The National Association of Home Builders notes, for example, that spraying water to reduce dust (a recommended practice) may be practical in some construction projects, but doing this inside a home while cutting granite counters could cause mold. Spraying water while cutting roof shingles in cold weather could cause ice to form on the roof, placing workers in danger.

OSHA, however, states on its website that the silica standard is intended to allow employers flexibility in selecting the best control methods for their particular workplaces. An agency fact sheet for small businesses explains that general-industry workplaces can select “any dust control or work practice method—such as water sprays, dust collectors, enclosed cabs on equipment, or prohibiting activities such as dry sweeping—that delivers the necessary protection.” Construction workplaces also have options: They can choose to measure silica exposure and independently decide on the most appropriate dust-control measures, or they can use a control method specified in an OSHA table of common construction activities.

OSHA estimates that the proposed rule will save nearly 700 lives and prevent 1,600 new cases of silicosis per year once the full effects of the rule are realized. Additional information on the proposal, including fact sheets and procedures for participating in public hearings, is available at

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