NRCA Responds OSHA’s Release of its Final Rule Governing Workplace Exposure to Crystalline Silica

Silica Picture

This statement is attributable to: William Good, CEO, National Roofing Contractors Association

Based on our initial review, the National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA) has serious concerns regarding OSHA’s new silica regulation.  First and foremost, we are concerned the final regulation significantly will increase fall hazards for roofing workers by requiring contractors to implement engineering controls that are not suited to work performed on sloped roofs. We are also concerned the rule will add significant new compliance costs for contactors that OSHA continues to seriously underestimate. Although we continue to have serious concerns, we appreciate OSHA made modest improvements in the final rule in response to concerns we articulated in testimony on the regulation as originally proposed.

NRCA submitted detailed comments to OSHA in response to the initial proposed regulation released in 2013 and also testified at a hearing on the proposal in April 2014. Additionally, NRCA representatives met with officials in the Office of Management Budget in February 2016 to reiterate these concerns as the final silica regulation underwent its final review.

When it becomes effective for the construction industry in June of 2017, OSHA’s final silica regulation will dramatically reduce the permissible exposure level (PEL) for silica in construction workplaces to 50 micrograms per cubic meter (from the current 250) and will establish an action level of 25 micrograms per cubic meter.  To meet these much lower levels, new engineering controls will become necessary to ensure compliance. With respect to roofing work, this likely will require workers who face even minimal amounts of exposure to silica dust to use wet cutting methods and dust masks.

NRCA is most concerned the new requirements will increase the risk of falls for roofing workers. Under the new rule, workers in many cases will have to use wet saws on the rooftop, introducing new hazards such as slipping on wet surfaces and tripping on hoses. We call on OSHA to work cooperatively with us to identify implementation strategies that protect workers from the new fall hazards created by the rule.

Despite some improvements in the final rule, NRCA continues to be concerned compliance with the regulation may not always be technologically feasible and will cause much uncertainty for employers. For example, some commercial laboratories have indicated they are not capable of measuring workplace silica levels with accuracy or consistency at such low levels.

NRCA leadership and staff will continue reviewing the 1,772-page final rule issued March 25 to determine and analyze the potential effects on the roofing industry and will provide further information and guidance for members in the future.

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