Respiratory conditions Federal agencies Silica Workplace exposures

Silica proposal draws backlash from industry

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Foundry, silica
Foundry workers are among those at highest risk for silica dust hazards.

Washington – Many industry stakeholders used a public comment period, which closed Feb. 11, to voice opposition to OSHA’s proposed rule on reducing the permissible exposure limit for crystalline silica.

The comment period closed Feb. 11. The proposed rule would cut the PEL in half from its current level of 100 micrograms per cubic meter of air to 50 µg/m3, a level NIOSH recommended 40 years ago. The new standard’s annual compliance cost would be $1,242 for the average workplace, OSHA estimated, and half that for smaller firms.

Similar to many commenters from industry, the Foundry Association of Michigan criticized OSHA’s estimates, claiming that some of the equipment needed to comply could cost up to $1 million. In addition, the Institute of Makers of Explosives said the proposed PEL and action level cannot be reliably measured.

Other provisions in the rule garnered more support. While pushing to maintain the current PEL and action level, the National Industrial Sand Association supported the standard’s requirement for exposure monitoring and medical surveillance triggered by exposures above the current action level.

Some comments were positive. The Communications Workers of America, an AFL-CIO-affiliated union, called the standard long overdue, necessary, and based on proven scientific and medical evidence.