Crystalline silica are those minute fragments of sand that shine like diamonds. They are nice to look at, but are actually lethal. According to OSHA, crystalline silica, when inhaled over a ten-year period or more, can cause respiratory failure, silicosis, lung cancer and even kidney diseases. It remains to be one of the most common causes of workplace illnesses in US Construction and impacts 2 million workers. 100,000 of these workers are at high risk from occupational exposure to silica.
Respirable crystalline silica is a respirable dust fraction of crystalline silica that makes its way to a person’s lungs through the nose and airways. Respirable dust fraction, according to IMA-Europe AISBL, is an inhalable unit of an airborne particle like that of crystalline silica.
OSHA has announced on October 25 that it would be pushing back the deadline for the comment period for its proposed silica rule, from December 11, 2013 to January 27, 2014. Public hearings will begin on March 18, 2014.
Assistant Labor Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels stated in an OSHA news release that the move was to allow more people to “submit their written comments” and “participate in public hearings” for the finalization of the proposed rule. Michaels have especially called on employers, workers and safety experts to chime in on how they’ve successfully minimized the risks of occupational exposure to silica.
OSHA has published its proposed rules on the Federal Register website last September 12, 2013. One of the main highlights of the rule is to lower the 40-year permissible exposure limit (PEL), which wasn’t deemed favorable by a few industry stakeholders. Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) Vice President Geoff Burr said lowering the PEL doesn’t necessarily prove that silica-related illnesses will be minimized, according to a Business and Legal Resources report.
Stakeholders weren’t also happy with the cost of compliance and are encouraging OSHA to broaden their compliance options. According to the same report, a group of stakeholders against the proposed rule making called the Construction Industry Safety Coalition, said compliance estimates cost about $1 billion annually, based on the results of a study they commissioned. But OSHA maintains estimates would only amount up to $2600 per year. OSHA also notes that compliance costs are even lower for the Construction industry, averaging for only $1,000.
The Coalition would like OSHA to extend the commenting period further to 90 days, according to a news release on ABC.org.
Learn more about the detrimental health effects of silica with OSHA online training. Visit our previous blog post on OSHA’s proposed revision of its silica rule.