News & Press

Cal/OSHA Decision on Silica Dust Standards Looms

The construction industry must comply with OSHA’s final ruling on respirable crystalline silica by June 23, a ruling that AGC of America and its chapters firmly oppose.

The ruling states companies must comply with all provisions, except for the requirements for methods of sample analysis. They are as follows:

  • Reduce the permissible exposure limit (PEL) by 80% to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air, averaged over an 8-hour shift
  • Establish an action level (AL) of 25 micrograms per cubic meter of air
  • Require affected employers to use engineering controls to limit exposures
  • Require respiratory protection when engineering controls are ineffective
  • Require affected employers to develop written exposure control plans
  • Require affected employers to train affected workers on the risks associated with silica and how they can limit their exposure
  • Require affected employers to provide medical exams to highly-exposed workers

AGC of America, as well as multiple other industry groups, believe the rule is unnecessary and unfeasible, both technologically and economically. For example, air sampling results furnished by commercial laboratories have been inconsistent.

Our national organization has filed challenges in court. Understanding that a legal challenge is a lengthy process that could yield an unfavorable result, we also continue to push for legislation in Congress in hopes the current administration will put workable silica measures in place that would be far more effective in improving workplace health and safety. At the state level, we have formed an advisory coalition comprised of AGC members to work with Cal/OSHA as it adopts OSHA’s ruling. Coalition partners sent a letter to the Cal/OSHA Advisory Board on Jan. 17 recommending the board keeps the inclusion of vacuums and proposing clarification of the exceptions.

The following is a list of options that the Cal/OSHA Standards Board is considering:

 

  1. Discontinue rule-making efforts: Refer employers to federal OSHA’s Small Entity Compliance Guide for the Respirable Crystalline Silica Standard for Construction so they can more easily comply with the standard.  The guide discusses exceptions to the regulation and how to comply with its requirements.  The Board could request that the Division reviews the compliance guide and makes amendments as necessary to ensure that it addresses the specific needs of California employers. Or,

  2. Move forward with the rule-making effort, placing as much information about vacuum controls and exceptions in the regulations as possible (similar to initial coalition proposal):  Provide employers with specific information about minor tasks that are not expected to overexpose employees.  Detailed requirements for vacuum controls and place the information into Table 1 so that employers do not need to interpret subsection (d) (where information on alternative exposure controls like vacuum controls currently exists).  No further advisory committee would be convened.  Board staff would prepare the amendments based upon the minutes of the Dec. 12, 2016, advisory meeting, subsequent subcommittee comments, and its own professional judgement.

  3. Continue the subcommittee discussion to specifically address the controls and respirator requirements necessary for employees to safely cut tiles on steep roofs:  Although the requirements can be distilled from the recently-adopted standard, more specific information could be placed into Table 1 to assist roofing contractors and employees with compliance.

A decision on the matter is expected by the end of this week.

For questions, please contact Dave Jones at 916.371.2422.