Crystalline silica exposure has been a workplace health concern in some industries for a long time. No one is debating the seriousness of the health hazards associated with over-exposure to crystalline silica.
But quite simply, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) new silica regulation is overkill. It is not a good example for the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) to emulate.
The National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association (NSSGA), in conjunction with the Georgia Construction Aggregates Association, filed a petition in the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for review of the crystalline silica rule. The American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) filed suit in the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals challenging the final regulation as well.
They are right to do so.
Despite the fact that silica-related illnesses have dropped dramatically the past four decades, the rule reduces the workplace exposure limit by half (from 100 micrograms per cu. meter to 50 micrograms per cu. meter over an eight-hour work shift).
In-the-field evidence has demonstrated that there is no additional health benefit to further reducing current exposure limits.
The rule is based on outdated health data. In setting the new standard, OSHA relied on studies from as early as the 1930s. According to the Centers for Disease Control, deaths due to silicosis have declined 93 percent over the past 39 years, ARTBA said.
The regulation creates air sampling requirements that are unworkable, requiring time consuming sampling and testing procedures that will yield virtually meaningless results, since, by the time the results are known, the “workplace” location and conditions tested will have moved and/or changed.
In addition, let’s not discount the work the industry already does to remain in compliance with the current standard. NSSGA regularly partners with MSHA to conduct noise and dust workshops that provide guidance on how to accurately monitor worker exposure to respirable silica. Also, NSSGA’s Occupational Health Program aids operators to effectively safeguard worker health through exposure monitoring and medical surveillance.
Let’s protect our workers, and without question, send them home each day in the same condition they arrived. But lets not regulate simply to regulate.