News about OSHA's proposed silica rule has been bubbling up for a couple of years. It has caused near-conniptions in the mining and oil industries, which would be heavily impacted by such a ruling. But the new rules could require any worker cutting into stone, concrete, block, glass, or ceramic—perhaps even such mundane tasks as sanding drywall—to implement a host of control measures (wet saws, vacuum dust collection, and worksite isolation being the predominate ones).
Writing in Remodeling magazine, Charlie Wardell unpacks what the proposed silica dust rule could mean for remodelers in "The Fed's War Against Silica Dust." Masonry and drywall contractors would be the most affected among the residential trades, Wardell writes, but the rule could apply to any worker generating dust. Cutting concrete, tile, block, and pavers; grinding or sanding a stone countertop, gutting a small bathroom, and roofing with tile are all tasks that could be regulated. The measures go beyond limiting the amount of dust generated and wearing respirators. Remodelers will need to establish written protocols, in addition to training workers how to recognize hazards and how to use personal protective equipment.
A recent report by the Construction Industry Safety Coalition (CISA) claims OSHA has severly underestimated the cost the new rules would impose on construction. OSHA initially estimated that compliance would cost the construction industry some $511 million. CISA claims the cost will be closer to $5 billion.
The report argues that the agency's estimate does not account for the indirect costs of rising material prices that would result when manufacturers that must comply with the rules pass along their costs for compliance. It also argues that the new rule would have a devastating impact on job losses. CISA is an uber-lobbying group composed of over two-dozen trade organizations, including the National Association of Home Builders, the Associated General Contractors, the National Association for the Remodeling Industry, and the National Roofing Council of America, to name a few.
Like many OSHA rules, the original proposal was supposed to get a 90-day review. But almost two years later, it's still under review. Before it becomes law, we'll likely see much more posturing and political saber rattling. But in the end "most industry observers believe the rule will be implemented," concludes Wardell. Brace yourself.