The Construction Industry Safety Coalition (CISC) today requested that the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) withdraw its proposed rule to drastically lower the permissible exposure limit (PEL) of crystalline silica for the construction industry. Concerns ranging from the cost of the proposed rule to its impact on employer safety records have been cited as top reasons for OSHA to reconsider the proposal and work more closely with industry representatives to understand the issues. Among the 25 trade associations represented by the CISC are the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI), National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), and National Roofing Contractors Association.

In a press release today, NARI outlined the organization's position against the proposed rule. Primarily, NARI says, "OSHA's proposed crystalline silica rule is potentially the most far-reaching regulatory initiative proposed by OSHA for the construction industry." A NARI representative told Remodeling that OSHA can't take a "one-size-fits-all" approach to silica dust regulation, and that the agency must look carefully at the resources available to all types of businesses and organizations affected by the rule.

Additionally, NARI says OSHA has neither met its burden of demonstrating that the proposal is technologically and economically feasible, nor has it shown that the proposed new PEL can be met by the construction industry "in most operations most of the time." As proposed, the rule would reduce the current PEL from 100 μg/m3 (micrograms per cubic meter) to 50 μg/m3. To achieve such a reduction would cost the industry an estimated $2.2 billion per year, according to NARI, which says OSHA's cost calculations were underestimated by a factor of at least 4.

Other associations outside the coalition are also expected to voice their criticisms of the silica dust rule. In addition to the primary concern over silica dust particles, the rule would also affect how some businesses report worker injuries and illnesses, potentially creating privacy concerns. The National Lumber & Building Materials Dealers Association (NLBMDA) recently reached out to its membership seeking comment on the rule.

The comment period related to OSHA's proposed rule is ongoing, and NARI lobbyist Chris Spear says the average rule generally takes four years to implement, start to finish. With no rule-making imminent, CISC says it welcomes the opportunity to sit down with OSHA to discuss the appropriate approach in dealing with the hazards of crystalline silica on construction worksites. Remodeling will continue to monitor this developing topic.