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OSHA Adds Time for Silica Comments

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

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Federal regulators will give the public more time to comment on a controversial proposal to limit silica exposure in the workplace, but the rest of the schedule will remain on track.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced Friday (Oct. 25) that it would add 47 days to the public comment period for its Proposed Rule on Occupational Exposure to Respirable Crystalline Silica. The new deadline for comments is Jan. 27, 2014.

The decision gave half a loaf to the proposal's opponents, who had requested an additional 90 days for comments and commensurate delays farther along in the process.

OSHA's announcement did not adjust the rest of the rulemaking schedule or reschedule the public hearing on the plan.

Silica safety
© iStock / ZooCat

OSHA says its proposal to limit worker exposure to silica could save hundreds of lives and new cases of silicosis each year. Critics call the rule unnecessary.

The dual proposal—with one standard for general industry and maritime employment and one for construction—was announced Aug. 23 and published Sept. 12 in the Federal Register.

Extension Requested

The public comment period on the proposal was to have closed Dec. 11, but opponents requested a 90-day extension, calling the deadline "virtually impossible" to meet. The critics said it would take most of 90 days to review OSHA's economic and technical feasibility analyses.

The opponents also asked that the rest of the rulemaking schedule be extended.

The rule faces strong opposition from most industry employer organizations, who consider it burdensome, costly and unnecessary. OSHA, supported by worker health advocates and unions, say the regulation would save 700 lives and prevent 1,600 cases of silicosis each year.

Additional information on the proposal, including fact sheets, is available here.

OSHA is also requesting, but not requiring, that individuals and organizations that wish to comment on the proposal disclose their funding sources and any conflicts of interest. The request was part of a Federal Register notice published Sept. 12.

Public Hearing Notice

In addition to the longer comment period, OSHA announced that it would allow prospective witnesses 30 additional days to submit notices of intention to appear at informal public hearings on the proposal. Those notices are now due Dec. 12.

However, OSHA reaffirmed that the public hearings would still begin March 18, 2014, as originally announced. "The duration of the hearings will be determined by the number of parties who request to appear," OSHA said. "The hearings are expected to continue for several weeks."

Silica safety
NJ Department of Health and Senior Services / Silicosis Surveillance Project

A grinder with vacuum control can help limit exposure to respirable crystalline silica, according to CPWR - The Center for Construction Research and Training.

A post-hearing comment period will follow the extended comment period and public hearings, OSHA said. Members of the public who filed a timely written notice of intention to appear will be able to submit post-hearing comments to the docket.

Members of the public may comment on the proposal by visiting http://www.regulations.gov.

New Silica Safety Tool

As concerns about silica safety grow, CPWR - The Center for Construction Research and Training has launched a new online planning tool for contractors facing projects involving silica.

Silica Safety - Before and After
NJ Department of Health and Senior Services / Silicosis Surveillance Project

Simple controls, including the use of water,  can dramatically reduce silica dust, according to CPWR.

The "Create-a-Plan" tool is designed to help contractors and others responsible for job-site safety develop a plan to protect workers engaged in work that produces respirable silica dust.

The tool offers users the option of registering so that they can confidentially save the plans they create in a format that can be retrieved, edited, renamed and reused at a later date. Only the registered user has access to his or her saved plan, according to CPWR.

The "Create-a-Plan" tool is one of many free resources available at CPWR's "Silica Safe" site.


Tagged categories: Certifications and standards; Government; Health and safety; OSHA; Silica; Workers

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