Construction Groups Want More Time to Comment on OSHA’s Proposed Silica Rule

A number of construction-industry trade organizations recently sent letters to OSHA Administrator David Michaels asking for a 90-day extension for submitting written comments on OSHA’s proposed silica standard.

Members of the newly formed Construction Industry Safety Coalition also asked OSHA to push back all other dates in the rulemaking process – including the public hearing – to correspond with the requested deadline extension.

“The current timeframe for submitting written comments is insufficient, and a denial of our request will substantially impede ABC’s ability to receive and process member feedback,” Associated Builders and Contractors said in a letter to Michaels and other federal lawmakers. “This is of particular concern, given that the current comment period is already compressed by the Thanksgiving holiday.”

On Aug. 23, OSHA unveiled a proposed rule that would cut the permissible exposure limit in general industry, construction and shipyards to 50 micrograms of respirable crystalline silica per cubic meter of air.

The proposal was published in the Sept. 12 Federal Register, and comments are due Dec. 11.
In their letters, the construction trade groups asserted that “the underlying economic- and technological-feasibility analyses related to the proposed rule are so voluminous that simply reviewing the material alone will take the vast majority of the initial 90-day comment period,” Associated Builders and Contractors noted in a news release.

“The letters argued that OSHA simply has not provided sufficient time for stakeholders to generate data that may be useful for the agency in analyzing the need for and the effects of the proposed rulemaking.”

Associated Builders and Contractors asked OSHA to schedule separate hearings for construction and general industry “in order to elicit the most relevant feedback and facilitate the best discussions.”

In addition to Associated Builders and Contractors, the coalition includes the Mechanical Contractors Association of America, the National Association of Home Builders, the International Council of Employers of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers, the National Roofing Contractors Association and other trade groups.

OSHA estimates that 2.2 million workers – most of them in construction – are exposed to silica dust on the job.

The agency says its proposed rule would save nearly 700 lives and prevent 1,600 new cases of silicosis per year.

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