NARI: Long Term Impact of Crystalline Silica Rule Remains to Be Seen

by Kacey Larsen

Posted on NARI On the Hill

The long anticipated OSHA rule on Silica was released at the end of March.  There were a few minor changes that were made to the original proposal but for the most part the rule remained the same. 

The new rule lowers the Permissible Exposure Level (PEL) from 250 to 50 for the construction industry.  This exposure level is averaged over an eight hour day.  While remodelers will be impacted by the rule, it will not be as bad when compared to some others in the construction industry. For instance, a remodeler may spend 45 minutes sanding a countertop during the day. On another day, a remodeler may spend two hours installing drywall. Given the limited time performing these tasks, over the course of an eight hour day it is unlikely that the PEL will exceed 50. Contrast that exposure with a business that is mixing concrete or paving a road or even a stone mason. Those companies are going to be far more impacted by this new rule and in fact, there may be some entities that do not survive. What that will do to remodelers is drive up the price of some materials and services but the long term impact still remains to be seen. The final rule goes into effect for the construction industry on June 23, 2017.

In the meantime, there are several things remodelers can do to prepare and be ready to comply with this rule. The rule does provide a “Safe Harbor” for the construction industry. According to OSHA, Table 1 “identifies 18 common construction tasks that generate high exposures to respirable crystalline silica and for each task, specifies engineering controls, work practices, and respiratory protection that effectively protect workers. Employers who fully and properly implement the engineering controls, work practices, and respiratory protection specified for a task on Table 1 are not required to measure respirable crystalline silica exposures to verify that levels are at or below the PEL for workers engaged in the Table 1 task.” 

NARI will continue to work with our partners on the Construction Industry Safety Coalition (CISC), as well as with our allies in Congress to ensure that implementation of this rule does not cause undue economic hardship on the small businesses in our nation’s construction industry.

Learn more about NARI and the Silica Rule here.

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