NSSGA VP Testifies before OSHA on Silica Rule

NSSGA Senior Vice President of Legislative & Regulatory Affairs Pam Whitted

The National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association’s (NSSGA) Senior Vice President of Legislative & Regulatory Affairs Pam Whitted testified before the Occupational Safety and Health Administration on the potential impacts of OSHA’s crystalline silica proposed rule. The agency’s analysis for the proposed regulation will provide the basis for a similar regulation by the Mine Safety and Health Administration later this year. Because of the potential impacts of this rule, NSSGA has been and continues to be active on behalf of its members.

OSHA proposed the rule on Sept. 9, 2013, and the period for public comments closed Feb. 11, 2014. OSHA began holding public hearings on the proposed rule March 18 and has scheduled testimony through April 4 from a variety of stakeholders.

Whitted joined other stakeholders in expressing concern over the cost to businesses, noting that “OSHA claims that the standard will have a net positive economic effect on the U.S. economy,” but “OSHA’s proposal is estimated by independent analysts to cost large and small employers alike billions of dollars every year.”

Whitted observed that while NSSGA fully supports OSHA and MSHA in protecting the health of workers, and has partnered with MSHA for many years to reduce silicosis in the aggregates industry, a better approach would be for OSHA to enforce the current permissible exposure limits. Whitted emphasized a “balanced view of the silica research indicates that the current PEL is adequate to prevent silica-related disease – but that all employers must comply with the current limit. And OSHA must enforce it.”

Regarding enforcement, Whitted expressed concern over OSHA’s proposal to reduce the PEL, pointing out that “many commercial laboratories may not be able to measure silica exposures at or below the current PEL on a reliable and consistent basis.” While OSHA has allowed a two-year grace period for laboratories to improve testing capabilities and capacity, it conversely would require employers to abide by the sampling results during this two-year period.

Whitted concluded by pointing out that while “NSSGA fully supports and actually espouses the vital mission of OSHA and MSHA, we cannot support a proposal that will cost businesses millions upon millions, but do little if anything to really improve workplace health and safety.”

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