The National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) asked an Illinois senator to push for clarity from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regarding its proposed silica rule.
In its letter to Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), the association said its key concerns include inflating economic costs and the permissible levels of exposure set by the rule.
The organization, based in Des Plaines, Ill., has pressed the administration for more clarity on the issue before. "OSHA's proposed crystalline silica rule is potentially the most far-reaching regulatory initiative proposed by OSHA for the construction industry," it wrote in a February press release.
The letter lists the economic impact of the rule as its top item. "There appears to be a significant disparity between the economic costs to industry that OSHA originally estimated ($511 million), and the economic impact that industry believes the rule will entail (estimated to be at least $3 to $4 billion annually)," the letter reads, citing economic data by The Construction Industry Safety Council.
The letter also addressed concerns with the permissible exposure level (PEL), and asked whether the rule was even technologically feasible at the present time. "Are there readily available tools and equipment currently on the market that construction companies could use, which would allow them to meet the new standards? If these tools and equipment are not readily available, would they be cost-prohibitive for companies, particularly small businesses, to purchase?"
Other areas where NARI says clarification is needed include OSHA suggesting the method of curbing silica's spread with water—which isn't readily available at every jobsite—and the requirement that employers keep employee medical records for 30 years. "During
the OSHA hearings, labor representatives stated that, while the employers
should pay for these exams, they did not want employers to have access to the
information due to 'fear of discrimination,'" read the letter. "However,
if an employee is starting to develop silicosis problems, how is an
employer supposed to be able to limit their exposure and move them to a different
position at the job site without adequate information?"