Occupational Health & Safety

Groups Seek Comment Extension on Silica Proposed Rule

Associated Builders and Contractors Inc. and the Construction Industry Safety Coalition, among others, say they need more time to review the agency's economic and technological feasibility analyses.

Numerous organizations, including the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Industrial Sand Association, Associated Builders and Contractors Inc., and the Construction Industry Safety Coalition have either submitted comments or sent letters to OSHA Assistant Secretary Dr. David Michaels seeking a 90-day extension for submitting written comments on OSHA's proposed rule that would sharply reduce the current permissible exposure limit for respirable crystalline silica in the construction industry. Comments currently are due Dec. 11.

The letters say the agency's economic and technological feasibility analyses "are so voluminous that simply reviewing the material alone will take the vast majority of the initial 90-day comment period," according to ABC. They requested that all other dates in the rule, including public hearing dates, be delayed to the same extent.

ABC said its letter also asked OSHA to hold separate hearings for construction and general industry "in order to elicit the most relevant feedback and facilitate the best discussions" and have hearings in more locations; the current plan is to have them in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area.

The congressional budget impasse also could hinder OSHA's ability to analyze comments and conduct the spring 2014 hearings as quickly as it outlined in its proposed rule.

ABC also will host a two-day STEP Plus Safety Excellence Academy Nov. 6-7 at the Red Rock Resort in Las Vegas, coinciding with the ABC Institute for Leadership and Professional Development. Space is limited to 30 participants, and the registration fee is $395.

The comments filed thus far about the silica proposed rule are similar to one another. Mark G. Ellis, president of the National Industrial Sand Association, wrote that "NISA shares the goal of a national silica policy based on sound science that protects workers from adverse health effects associated with inhaling excessive amounts of respirable crystalline silica, that is technologically and economically feasible, and that does not impose compliance costs that far exceed its expected benefits. However, after carefully reviewing the proposed rule, we believe that the volume of information presented in the proposal, the analysis it requires and the time necessary to craft thoughtful consensus comments and testimony renders it impossible to deliver a complete and meaningful response in a mere 90 days and more than justifies at least a 90-day extension of both the comment period and commencement of the public hearing. For a rulemaking on which OSHA began work almost 40 years ago (39 Fed. Reg. 44771, Dec. 27, 1974) and on which it has been working in earnest for more than a dozen years, this is a modest requested extension that is necessary to allow interested stakeholders a more appropriate and fair amount of time to consider relevant documents and present views and information related to OSHA's far-reaching proposal."

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