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OSHA seeks input regarding potential changes to silica rule

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is asking for input regarding potential changes to its silica standard, according to www.constructiondive.com.

OSHA's request for information pertains to control measures for tasks and tools not currently included in the Table 1 section of the rule, as well as tasks and tools not currently specified in Table 1. The current silica rule states contractors who use the Table 1-delineated engineering and work practice controls along with specified personal protective equipment are deemed to be in full compliance with the rule. OSHA also is requesting input regarding the effectiveness of dust control methods in reducing worker exposure to silica. Responses to OSHA's notice are due by December.

The latest unified agenda also included an OSHA final rule notice regarding changes to its tracking of workplace injuries and illnesses requirement. Set to become final in June 2019 pending comments and additional review, the new provision would eliminate the requirement that establishments with 250 or more employees submit Forms 300 and 301 electronically; those establishments still would have to electronically report information from Form 300A. OSHA estimated the change will save employers $8.7 million per year. View NRCA's comments regarding this rule.

Some industry groups maintained there was no need for tighter silica dust guidelines but lost that argument in federal court. Still, some oppose the rule based on claims of ambiguity and cost. To give companies more time to comply with the rule, OSHA delayed enforcement for 30 days after the revised standard went into place. During the first six months of implementation, inspectors issued 116 citations, with the largest silica-related fine exceeding $300,000.

Much of the controversy regarding the recordkeeping provisions was focused on privacy. The rule required that companies submit annual OSHA forms electronically, and OSHA also announced its intentions to store information from Form 300 in a publicly accessible database. Industry groups argued that being forced to make public potentially confidential and proprietary information was a violation of employers' First Amendment and Fifth Amendment rights.

NRCA has been conducting personal breathing zone sampling on roofing job sites where silica may be present to assess worker exposures to respirable crystalline silica (RCS). This effort is intended to establish roofing industry objective data that contractors can rely on, particularly when performing tasks not listed in Table 1 of OSHA's regulation. Industry objective data can relieve contractors from the expense of conducting their own sampling if the tasks being undertaken are similar to those found in the objective data. In the majority of sampling conducted on asphalt shingle, polymer-modified bitumen and built-up roof tear-offs and installations, exposures not only were below the permissible exposure limit (PEL) but also below the action level and in many instances below the limit of detection. Levels of total respirable dust also were well below the OSHA PEL.

In addition, sampling was performed on tasks such as drilling into concrete or masonry for fastener attachment, cutting and fastening gypsum roof boards, and installation and removal of roof gravel or ballast—all with equally positive results.

NRCA offers explanatory material and summaries of the sampling reports in the Members Only section of its website, as well as Toolbox Talks regarding RCS in English and Spanish; a customizable sample written silica exposure control plan required by the rule; a sample written respiratory protection plan; and links to other resources that may help with compliance. To view NRCA's silica regulation resources, click here.

More reports will be added to the silica regulation resources section as NRCA continues to conduct sampling on additional roofing projects.


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