CISC Report: Proposed Silica Rule Will Cost 10 Times OSHA’s Estimates

A report released by the Construction Industry Safety Coalition (CISC) found that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) proposed silica standards for U.S. construction industry will cost the industry $5 billion per year—roughly $4.5 billion per year more than OSHA’s estimates. The coalition cautioned that the flawed cost estimates reflect deeper flaws in the rule and urged the federal agency to reconsider its approach.

OSHA’s proposed rule, intended to drastically reduce the permissible exposure limit (PEL) of crystalline silica for the construction industry, has been underestimated by the agency to cost the construction industry about $511 million a year. The estimates released by CISC estimate that the costs to the industry will actually be approximately 10 times the OSHA estimate—costing nearly $5 billion a year.

The cost and impact analysis from OSHA reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of the construction industry. The OSHA analysis included major errors and omissions that account for the large discrepancies with the CISC report. The CISC report estimates that about 80 percent of the cost ($3.9 billion per year) will be direct compliance expenditures by the industry such as additional equipment, labor and record-keeping costs. The remaining 20 percent of the cost ($1.05 billion per year) will come in the form of increased prices that the industry will have to pay for construction materials and building products such as concrete block, glass, roofing shingles and more. OSHA failed to take into account these additional costs to the construction industry that will result from the proposed standard, which will then be passed down to customers in the form of higher prices.

Not only will the proposed rule be more costly than originally estimated, but it would translate into significant job losses for the construction industry and the broader economy. The CISC estimates that the proposed regulation would reduce the number of jobs in the U.S. economy by more than 52,700 yearly. That figure includes construction industry jobs, jobs in related industries such as building material suppliers, equipment manufacturers and architects, as well as losses in non-construction sectors. Additionally, the losses are full time employee positions. Factoring in the many part-time or seasonal jobs, that number could increase to close to 80,000 positions lost.

“We are deeply concerned about the misguided assumptions and cost and impact errors that OSHA has relied upon in creating this proposed rule that will significantly affect our industry,” says NAHB chairman Tom Woods, a home builder from Blue Springs, Mo. “This report reveals the critical need for OSHA to withdraw its proposed rule until it can put forth a technologically and economically feasible rule that also works to improve industry workers health and safety.”

“This report clearly demonstrates OSHA’s lack of real world understanding of the construction industry and raises serious questions about their ability to responsibly craft industry standards,” says ABC Vice President of Government Affairs Geoff Burr. “We hope that this report will lead OSHA to withdraw its proposed rule and work more closely with the construction industry to emphasize compliance with the current standard.”

“These errors raise serious and significant questions about many of the other assumptions the agency relied upon in crafting its new rules,” says Stephen E. Sandherr, the chief executive officer of the Associated General Contractors of America. “We need measures in place that are going to allow all of us to continue the significant improvements in silica safety the industry has made, and the sad truth is that the agency’s rule is too riddled with errors to do that.”

“The assumptions that were made by OSHA in developing this rule are completely off base and we hope this report adequately tells the truth of what this rule will truly mean to the construction industry. We believe the current silica rule has done a fantastic job of reducing related illnesses so much so that it is still declining every year and current projections have it being eliminated over time,” according to Jeff Buczkiewicz, president of the Mason Contractors Association of America. “Our industry needs a rule that is based on real world construction site scenarios that is not technologically and economically infeasible to implement and this report clearly shows that this rule does not fit that bill.”

Construction Industry Safety Coalition Urges U.S. Department of Labor to Withdraw ‘Significantly Flawed’ Silica Proposal

The Construction Industry Safety Coalition, which represents 25 different construction trade associations, issued the following statement recently as it filed comments regarding the Washington, D.C.- based Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s proposed Crystalline Silica Rulemaking:

“After an exhaustive analysis that involved hundreds of construction safety professionals, builders, construction managers and specialty trade contractors representing virtually every facet on the industry, it is our conclusion that the administration’s proposed new silica rule is significantly flawed and will do little to improve workplace health or safety. Specifically, the proposed rule sets a silica exposure standard that cannot be accurately measured or protected against with existing equipment and includes a series of data errors that undermine many of the rule’s basic assumptions.

“The proposed rule’s new silica exposure limit is virtually impossible to accurately measure or protect against using existing technology. For example, commercially available dust collection technology is not capable by itself of protecting workers from the rule’s new silica exposure limit. A limitation the agency appears to acknowledge in its additional requirement that workers also wear respirators, something that would not be necessary if the dust collection technology was effective.

“Even more troubling, the proposal is rife with errors and inaccurate data that call into question the entire rulemaking process. Agency officials, for example, omitted 1.5 million construction workers from its assessment of the size of the affected workforce. The agency also did not consider the broad range of tasks and variety of settings and environments in which construction occurs. And the agency’s assessment of the rule’s cost was off by a factor of four.

“Given the lack of scientific explanation justifying the new exposure limits, the many contradictions between the rule and the realities faced in the construction industry, and the fact that agency officials made significant errors in the basic data the rule is based on, we are urging the administration to withdraw this proposed rule. We strongly urge agency officials to work with us and employee groups to craft a silica measure that will build upon the work all of us have done to reduce silica-related deaths by 93 percent during the past three decades.”