Federal agencies Silica Workplace exposures

OSHA silica hearings continue

Washington – OSHA’s nearly three-week-long series of hearings on its proposed rule on crystalline silica continued this week, with both opponents and supporters voicing their opinions.

The hearings, which OSHA administrator David Michaels said would help ensure a final rule that adequately protects workers, kicked off March 18 and are scheduled to conclude April 4. The proposed rule would reduce the permissible exposure limit by half to a level originally recommended by NIOSH 40 years ago.

The rule would help improve employee health and safety, the American Industrial Hygiene Association stated at the March 21 hearing.

Although the National Industrial Sand Association supports the exposure monitoring and medical surveillance requirements in the proposal, the group said on March 20 that it opposes reducing the current PEL and questioned the feasibility of achieving the proposed action level.

NIOSH scientists testified on March 18 that several control methods can reduce the risk of silica exposure, and OSHA’s proposed standard is measureable through existing technologies available to industries.

Other groups that testified at the hearings included the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the AFL-CIO and the American Chemistry Council. Once the hearings conclude, a full transcript will be published in the rulemaking docket.