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OSHA Proposal on Silica Dust Elicits Employers' Serious Concerns

Crystalline silica dust has long been deemed an occupational hazard across a wide spectrum of industries in Texas and throughout the country. Knowing this, federal safety regulators have had regulations in place for decades that set limiting standards on silica.

Officials from the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration have been looking with some concern at those standards recently. They contend that knowledge has advanced appreciably in the 43 years that have passed since the agency first promulgated standards and industry training guidelines aimed at safely controlling the dangerous dust particles. That increased know-how now requires an adjustment to the longstanding regulations, OSHA states.

Pursuant to that goal, the agency is proposing tighter standards that will apply with greater uniformity to all industries -- not just select businesses -- across the country. Public comment on what OSHA is specifically recommending closed recently, and the depth of interest regarding the agency’s proposal is starkly evident from the nearly 2,000 comments that regulators received.

Much of the feedback is questioning and challenging, with officials from many industries querying whether new standards need to be introduced at all. One critic from the cast-metal industry says that employers have already spent “tens of millions of dollars cleaning up foundries.” Another says that the newly announced exposure limits cited by OSHA are questionable and that the costs cited for achieving them are “grossly underestimated.”

Agency hearings on the proposal recently concluded. Regulators downplay the expressed concerns of businesses across the country regarding compliance costs, stating that an “average” employer would likely need to spend only about $1,240 annually to legally comply.

That number “is infuriating because it’s so absurd,’ says one business principal who challenges it.

We will keep our readers in Texas and elsewhere duly apprised of material developments that emerge in this matter going forward.

Source: Cleveland Business, "OSHA proposal is causing a bit of a dustup,"Rachel Abbey McCafferty, April 13, 2014