OSHA’s Proposed Silica Rule Changes and What Remodelers Can Do… NOW

EM NARI Government Affairs Committee

Posted by Matt Pelrine, NorthStar Insurance on 5 June 2015 | 0 Comments

The most current federal safety standards pertaining to silica-related dust were implemented in 1971 – and have not been updated since. In August of 2013, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced a proposed rule update designed to limit workers’ exposure to crystalline silica dust by drastically lowering the permissible exposure limit (PEL) for the compound. The National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) has joined 24 other construction trade associations, to include the National Association of Homebuilders and the Associated Builders and Contractors, in forming the Construction Industry Safety Coalition (CISC). In a report released on March 25, 2015, the CISC estimated that compliance with the proposed rule will cost the construction industry $4.9 billion per year; as such, NARI and the CISC have urged OSHA to withdraw the proposed rule.

Nearly two years have passed since the formal introduction of the proposed rule change and, perhaps unsurprisingly, the rule remains in a “wait-and-see” status as OSHA continues the process of reviewing over 10,000 pages of comments from construction industry leaders and the general public. While updating the silica standard is well-intentioned, the increased costs of compliance – largely underestimated by OSHA – are particularly burdensome for the Massachusetts remodeler; however, the fact remains that exposure to silica dust presents a more serious threat to your most valuable resource: your people.


How can a little dust harmful and how can its risks be managed?
Crystalline silica is a natural compound found in most varieties of rocks – including granite and marble – and is easily turned into dust when silica-containing materials are cut or crushed. When inhaled, silica particles can cause irreparable damage to lung tissue. Prolonged exposure to silica dust is accompanied by a myriad of health conditions, to include: lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, kidney disease and silicosis – an incurable and sometimes fatal condition that can cause scar tissue and fluid buildup in the lungs, ultimately hindering breathing ability.

The most severe exposures to silica dust result from abrasive blasting, but those working on construction sites are at a high risk as well. When working with silica, take the following precautions to protect yourself and your employees:

  • Be aware – and make sure your employees are aware – of the health hazards related to silica dust exposure.
  • Always wear proper personal protective equipment; when cutting or blasting, use a respirator and ensure that it is in good working order.
  • Use all available suppression practices, such as water sprays, ventilation systems and blasting cabinets.
  • Don’t eat, drink, or smoke in areas where silica dust is present. Wash your hands and face outside of dusty areas before performing any of these activities.
  • Vacuum the dust from your clothes and/or change into clean clothing before leaving the worksite.

Always take extra precaution when working with silica – the tiny particles can cause massive health concerns later in life.

For more information on the proposed rule, please visit: https://www.osha.gov/silica/

For NARI’s “Action Alert” pertaining to the rule, please visit: https://www.votervoice.net/Shares/BAAAAAVdACDwJASnEAN7FAA

For the CISC report, please view the Construction Industry Safety Report.



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