By Nick Goldstein, vice president of regulatory affairs, ARTBA

Oral arguments were heard Sept. 26 in ARTBA’s legal challenge to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) new rule on exposure to crystalline silica, which took effect three days earlier.

ARTBA’s legal team focused on aspects of the rule that are both technologically and economically infeasible. OSHA attorneys responded that companies covered by the new standard have time to adjust and develop new technologies.

There also were arguments over whether or not the new standard is needed since OSHA’s existing silica rule has already significantly reduced harmful exposure rates.

No date has been set for a decision in the litigation, now in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. ARTBA and its industry allies continue working on efforts to achieve a settlement with OSHA, hopefully leading to reconsideration of the rule in order to fix some of the contested areas.

Crystalline silica is a basic component of dust from soil, sand, granite and other minerals associated with construction. The standard, which is being challenged by ARTBA and industry allies in federal court, sets limit of 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air, averaged over an eight-hour shift, compared to the previous level of 250 micrograms for the construction industry.

ARTBA has consistently maintained that OSHA’s standard is based on flawed science and unrealistic assumptions about the construction industry and could divert significant resources—human and financial—away from activities aimed at mitigating, if not eliminating, documented, serious hazards to workers’ health and safety.

OSHA has said that for the first 30 days of the new rule it will consider whether or not employers are making “good faith” efforts to meet the standard before issuing a citation.