OSHA Estimates Silica Rule To Cost Construction Industry $89 Million Annually

As reported by SC&RA, The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) estimates its new respirable silica rule comes with an overall annual cost for training and familiarization of $96 million in 2012 dollars, with the construction industry cost estimated at $89 million. The rule reduces the crystalline silica permissible exposure limit (PEL) to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air as a time-weighted average (TWA) for construction, maritime and general industries. However, monitoring must begin when silica is expected to exceed 25 micrograms per cubic meter of air.

“The silica rule does add the requirement for training specific to workers’ jobs. However, OSHA is vague about what training complies with the regulation,” noted an article in the April 7 issues of BNA, Inc. Construction Labor Report. “For example, the rule doesn’t address the use of certifications, third-party auditors or mandatory class hours.
There isn’t a specified hours-of-training requirement because the rule is a ‘performance standard,’ the rule says.”

While OSHA officials claim that performance-based standards will provide flexibility to accommodate changing practices, incorporate unique situations and fit individual workplaces, employers “have sometimes countered that performance standards leave too much leeway for inspectors to decide training wasn’t adequate and issue citations,” noted BNA.

According to the rule, the amount of training will vary by worksite and depend on what is required for employees to “demonstrate knowledge and understanding” of:

  • respirable silica hazards
  • specific tasks at the worksite that could result in silica exposure
  • protection measures initiated by the employer, such as wet sawing
  • knowledge of the employer’s medical surveillance program
  • the identity of the workplace’s “competent person” on a construction site.

Click here for more on respirable dust information, including the final rule.

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