"Highlights of OSHA’s web chat on its proposed silica rule, Part 2
"What assistance is OSHA going to give to small employers?'
Written comments on OSHA's silica exposure proposal can be submitted by:
• Visiting the federal government’s online rulemaking portal at http://www.regulations.gov, Docket ID# OSHA-2010-0034.
• Faxing OSHA’s docket office at: 202-693-1648 (for comments of 10 pages or less).
• Sending hard-copy documents (via regular mail, express delivery, courier, or hand delivery) to the OSHA Docket Office, Technical Data Center, Room N-2625, OSHA, U.S. Department of Labor, 200, Constitution Ave., NW., Washington, D.C. 20210.
More information about public participation is included in a public participation factsheet (http://www.osha.gov/silica/factsheets/OSHA_FS-3684_Silica_Public.html).
The fact sheet details how to submit comments, data, and other documentary evidence to the public docket for the silica rulemaking.
OSHA held a web chat last week that gave small businesses and other stakeholders the opportunity to ask questions about its proposed rule on Occupational Exposure to Respirable Crystalline Silica.
Following are some of the exchanges that took place during the web chat:
Q: What are the main training elements in the proposal, and do they differ between general industry and construction
OSHA: The training provisions in the proposed construction and general industry standards are identical. They largely mirror OSHA’s current Hazard Communication Standard. Employers would be required to ensure that each affected employee can demonstrate knowledge of:
• The silica standard
• operations involving silica exposure;
• Procedures to protect employees; and
• The medical surveillance program.
See paragraph (i) of the proposed rule for the precise language.
Q: What was the basis for the selected tasks in Table 1 of the construction proposal ?
OSHA: Table 1 lists the common tasks at construction sites for which OSHA found sufficient monitoring data to evaluate the effectiveness of engineering controls necessary to comply with the proposed exposure limit. Table 1 was developed to implement recommendations made by small business representatives during the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA) process. In developing control strategies for each of the thirteen control operations in Table 1, OSHA relied upon information from a variety of sources including scientific literature, NIOSH reports, OSHA site visits and compliance files. The information relied on by OSHA is contained in Chapter 4 of OSHA’s Preliminary Economic Analysis (available on OSHA’s silica web page at: http://www.osha.gov/silica/index.html, and in the docket (http://www.regulations.gov/#!home: Docket ID: OSHA-2010-0034-1720). The agency invites public comment on Table 1.
Q: Does the DOL have any data showing an increase/decrease in actual silicosis illnesses attributed to workplace exposure?
OSHA: Silicosis is almost exclusively an occupational disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that from 2006 through 2010, silicosis was listed as the underlying or a contributing cause of death on over 600 death certificates in the United States but most deaths from silicosis go undiagnosed. Also, many silica-related deaths are caused by chronic bronchitis, emphysema, lung cancer, kidney disease and other diseases; these deaths are not reflected in the death certificate statistics cited above.
For more information about Silicosis and other health effects of silica see OSHA’s Review of Health Effects Literature and Preliminary Quantitative Risk Assessment. That document is available on OSHA’s silica web page (http://www.osha.gov/silica/index.html) and in the docket (http://www.regulations.gov: Docket ID: OSHA-2010-0034-1711).
Can't find the facts
Q: You have referred us at least twice to fact sheets at the general web site. Could you give an actual link to those fact sheets? I couldn't find them.
OSHA: For fact sheets related to the proposed rule, please visit http://www.osha.gov/silica/. Specifically look under the “Rulemaking Information” tab.
Q: OSHA claims that the new rule will save 700 lives and prevent 1600 new cases of silicosis each year. How was this number arrived? Under the current rules, how many people die each year from silicosis now and how many new cases of silicosis are diagnosed each year?
OSHA: OSHA’s preliminary assessment was based on peer-reviewed, published studies of disease risks in worker populations and was the best information available to the Agency at the time the proposal was issued. That information is presented in OSHA’s Review of Health Effects Literature and Preliminary Quantitative Risk Assessment, which fully answers your questions. That document is available on OSHA’s silica web page (http://www.osha.gov/silica/index.html) and in the docket (http://www.regulations.gov: Docket ID: OSHA-2010-0034-1711).
From 2006 through 2010, silicosis was listed as the underlying or a contributing cause of death on over 600 death certificates in the United States but most deaths from silicosis go undiagnosed. Also, many silica-related deaths are caused by chronic bronchitis, emphysema, lung cancer, kidney disease and other diseases; these deaths are not reflected in the death certificate statistics cited above. In addition, studies have indicated that as many as 3700 people acquire silicosis annually in the workplace.
Q: If I have a workplace that uses silica and take industrial hygiene samples that demonstrate that exposures are below the action level, what part of the standard is applicable at my workplace?
OSHA: You have essentially met the requirements of the proposed rule, unless any changes are made that could result in exposures at or above the action level (in which case additional exposure assessment would be needed) . If exposures are below the action level, only the Hazard Communication requirements in paragraph (i) of the proposed rule would apply.
How will the new rules be better?
Q: How will the new rules be more effective than current standards provided that standards are enforced within the construction/mfg trades?
OSHA: First, OSHA’s current exposure limit for silica in construction is outdated. The exposure limit for construction is based on an obsolete air sampling and analytical method that has not been commonly used in over 40 years and is no longer available from commercial sources (counting particles rather than determining mass in air). Therefore, it is difficult to effectively enforce this obsolete exposure limit.
In addition, the peer reviewed risk assessments performed by OSHA, NIOSH and others show that exposure at the current general industry Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) still results in highly significant risks of death from lung cancer, kidney disease, silicosis, or other lung diseases. Risks are even higher at the PEL for construction, which is over twice as high as the current general industry PEL. Therefore, OSHA believes that a comprehensive standard that updates the exposure limits and that includes requirements for training, medical surveillance, and exposure assessment is necessary to adequately protect workers.
Help for small employers
Q: What assistance is OSHA planning to help small employers figure out if we have new obligations under the proposed rule
OSHA: In addition to a number of fact sheets and written materials (including a small entity compliance guide), OSHA compliance assistance specialists will do presentations around the country to ensure that employers understand the standard. Each state also has an OSHA funded consultation program that provides free training and consultation for small and medium sized employers. This program is completely separate from OSHA’s enforcement program.
Q: What are some of the situations where you see an employer using the written access control plan instead of a regulated area?
OSHA: Under the proposed rule, it is entirely up to the employer whether to use a written access control plan or a regulated area. The employer may find a written access control plan preferable when the work site is not a fixed location (e.g., highway construction).
No short-term limit
Q: In addition to lowering the PEL, are there any short term exposure limits be established?
OSHA: OSHA has not proposed a short-term exposure limit for the silica rule. We welcome comments on this issue.
Q: How did OSHA gather the estimated cost of compliance data?
OSHA: To document costs, we called vendors, did Internet searches, and consulted with experts. OSHA also consulted with small businesses through the normal Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA) Panel process and through extensive analysis of the impacts on small businesses.
The cost table in Chapter 5 of the PEA (preliminary economic analysis) documents all the costs. For more information, see OSHA’s PEA on OSHA’s silica web page at: http://www.osha.gov/silica/index.html, and in the docket (http://www.regulations.gov/#!home: Docket ID: OSHA-2010-0034-1720). The preliminary analysis was based on the best information available to the Agency at the time the proposal was issued.
"Extreme differences" in cost data
Q: Will this new economic feasibility data be considered during the rule revisions? Numerous engineering and cost studies are finding extreme differences between OSHA findings and actuals that employers will may be faced with.
OSHA: Yes, OSHA will consider all relevant comments and data in its rulemaking. Comments regarding OSHA’s proposed silica rule can be submitted until January 27, 2014.
Q: I am an executive at a foundry in Ohio, and my understanding of the proposed rule is that even if I provide protective equipment (respirators, etc.) for my employees, that I still have to install "engineering controls" to reduce the amount of respirable silica in the air. Is this correct?
OSHA: Under the proposed rule, employers would be required to first implement feasible engineering controls before requiring employees to wear respirators. Respirators cannot be used unless engineering and work practice controls alone are not sufficient to reduce silica exposure below the permissible exposure limit (PEL).
Q: Are all silica types covered by this new rule if not, what specific silcas are being changed?
OSHA: The proposed rule covers occupational exposure to respirable crystalline silica, defined as airborne particles that contain quartz, cristobalite, and/or tridymite. These are the same types of silica that are covered under the current OSHA standard.
Q: Does OSHA take into account the economic factors in this decision making? i.e. How many jobs will be lost due to these rules?
OSHA: Yes, among other things OSHA estimated the cost impacts of the proposed rule on the revenues and profitability of affected firms, affected small firms, and affected very small firms in each affected industry.
In addition, according to a study conducted by Inforum, a well-recognized macroeconomics modeling firm, the proposed rule would have no net effect on overall U.S. employment.
The information relied on by OSHA for both of these issues is contained in Chapter VI of OSHA’s Preliminary Economic Analysis (available on OSHA’s silica web page at: http://www.osha.gov/silica/index.html, and in the docket (http://www.regulations.gov/#!home: Docket ID: OSHA-2010-0034-1720). The agency invites public comment on its preliminary economic analysis.
Click here to read Part 1.
Click here to read Part 3.