By Nick Goldstein, vice president of regulatory affairs & assistant general counsel, ARTBA
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit Dec. 22 upheld the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) rule on exposure to crystalline silica. The rule took effect on Sept. 25.
As part of the Construction Industry Safety Coalition (CISC), ARTBA and our industry allies challenged the rule on both economic and scientific grounds. Unfortunately, the court sided with OSHA. It wrote: “Industry’s insistence that compliance is infeasible for some firms in some operations some of the time cannot upend our deference to OSHA’s well-supported finding that compliance is feasible for the typical firm in most operations.” The court also noted that OSHA was not required to provide “hard and precise estimates of costs” for the rule.
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. ARTBA and our coalition partners will continue to work with OSHA in an effort to implement the new silica standard in a way that both maintains necessary worker protections while also preventing unnecessary economic and regulatory burdens.