March 27, 2014
The National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association’s Senior Vice President of Legislative and Regulatory Affairs Pam Whitted on Thursday testified before the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on the agency’s proposed silica rule.
OSHA’s analysis for the proposed regulation has the potential to provide the basis for similar rulemaking from the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) later this year.
OSHA proposed the rule on Sept. 9. The period for public comments closed on Feb. 11, and the agency has been holding public hearings since March 18. The last of those testimonies is slated for April 4.
Whitted noted in her testimony a concern about the proposed rule’s cost to businesses. Whitted said, “OSHA claims that the standard will have a net positive economic effect on the U.S. economy,” and added that “OSHA’s proposal is estimated by independent analysts to cost large and small employers alike billions of dollars every year.”
Whitted said a better approach to protect workers’ health and reduce silicosis in the aggregates industry would be for OSHA to enforce the current permissible exposure limits (PEL). She noted that 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.”
Whitted also said she is concerned about OSHA’s proposal to reduce the PEL, stating that “many commercial laboratories may not be able to measure silica exposures at or below the current PEL on a reliable and consistent basis.” She pointed out that laboratories would have two years to meet requirements, while operators would be required to begin sampling results immediately.
“[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,” Whitted said.