Road and transportation body starts legal action against silica rule

The American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) filed suit April 4 in the 5th  US Circuit Court of Appeals to thwart the Occupational Safety & Health Administration’s (OSHA) final regulation for exposure to crystalline silica, reports Construction Equipment.

“OSHA’s silica regulation is based on flawed science, flawed economic data, and flawed logic,” the association’s president Pete Ruane said. “The unintended consequence of the proposal is that it will actually expose road workers to greater risk by diverting resources away from other legitimate safety programs.”

For nearly 25 years, ARTBA has been industry’s primary legal advocate, working successfully to protect the transportation construction market from federal regulatory overreach. The results of these efforts: more than $50 billion in approved—yet challenged—state, regional and local transportation projects and plans have been allowed to move forward. The association’s latest challenge to the silica rule is a “no-brainer,” Ruane says.

The rule, released March 24 by the Department of Labor, sets the limit of 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air, averaged over an eight-hour shift, compared to the previous level of 250 micrograms for the construction industry.
The association says OSHA’s standard could divert significant resources—human and financial—away from activities aimed at mitigating, if not eliminating, documented, serious hazards to our workers health and safety like runovers and backovers and work zone intrusions.

Throughout the rule-making process, the association has pointed out a number of problems with the new OSHA standard, noting:

  • It is based on outdated health data. In setting the new standard, OSHA has relied on studies from as early as the 1930s. More recent data clearly shows silica exposure has been dramatically reduced under the existing standard. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), deaths due to silicosis have declined 93% over the past 39 years.
  • It is built on faulty economic data. OSHA estimates the rule will cost the construction industry $658,971,248 per year. An ARTBA co-sponsored, independent economic analysis of the proposed standard, conducted by Environomics, Inc, shows the new standard will cost the construction industry nearly $2.2 billion per year.
  • It may be doing more harm than good by requiring workers to wear respirators in hot environments, potentially exposing them to otherwise avoidable heat stroke and stress.

It creates air sampling requirements that are unworkable, requiring time consuming sampling and testing procedures that will yield virtually meaningless results, since, by the time the results are known, the “workplace” location and conditions tested will have moved and/or changed.

Despite ARTBA’s numerous attempts to have these concerns addressed by OSHA during the rulemaking process, the agency ignored them in the final rule, ARTBA said.

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