NSSGA submitted formal comments to the U. S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration on the agency’s proposed standard that would regulate occupational exposure to respirable crystalline silica on Feb. 11, 2014. The proposal is important to NSSGA members because it directly affects the operations of many vertically-integrated members, and because the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration intends to issue its own proposal later this year.  OSHA’s proposal would cut the existing workplace exposure limit by 50 percent and impose an Action Level that is 25 percent of the existing limit.

NSSGA’s comments urge OSHA to retain the current limit, which is protective against silica-related diseases when it is consistently complied with and consistently enforced, and to withdraw the proposed Action Level. NSSGA also highlighted potentially serious concerns with the accuracy and reliability of silica sample analyses that employers would use to assess compliance with the standard.

On the basis of these concerns, NSSGA urged OSHA to withdraw the proposed rule until it can assure employers that a sufficient number of qualified technicians exist who can collect and properly analyze the huge increase in samples that the proposal will create – an increased demand that OSHA acknowledges, yet the agency would grant laboratories a two-year catch-up period during which they would have to improve the quality of analyses for silica samples. OSHA intends to provide no such relief for employers, however, who would still be liable for excess exposures even when relying on questionable lab results.

NSSGA concurrently filed with OSHA a summary of the remarks that NSSGA Senior Vice President Pam Whitted will make during public hearings on the proposed standard that OSHA will hold beginning March 18, 2014, in Washington, D.C.

Feb. 11 was the submittal deadline set by OSHA after the recent discovery of an error on a government webpage forced the agency to grant an additional 15-day extension of the comment period. An earlier extension resulted from widespread industry criticism that OSHA’s original deadline did not allow affected employers adequate time to review and respond to the thousands of pages that make up the proposed standard and its supporting documents.

For additional information, contact Dale T. Drysdale at ddrysdale@nssga.org.

[gview file=”http://www.nssga.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/2014-02-11-Comments-to-OSHA.pdf”]

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