Our Company Culture: Safety Is Priceless All Year Long

Safety is Tualatin, Ore.-based Columbia Roofing & Sheet Metal’s No. 1 core value and a year-round commitment that streams through our entire operation. Just one very small diversion from the rules can cost someone his or her home, business or life. I sleep easy knowing everyone is home safely at the end of the workday.

Employees in the field perform a “Stretch and Flex” activity every morning, led by the foreman, to help prevent injuries.

Employees in the field perform a “Stretch and Flex” activity every morning, led by the foreman, to help prevent injuries. PHOTO: Columbia Roofing & Sheet Metal

There are key processes we follow at Columbia Roofing & Sheet Metal to ensure job safety:

Every two weeks our employees train with a paid outside safety training consultant, Integrity Safety of Vancouver, Wash. OSHA comes to our facility and our job sites if we have any questions. We keep up on the safety regulations and strive for perfection through staff member Pete Perrin and our safety consultant. In addition to all the safety rules that state and federal OSHA requires, we go beyond in many areas that just make sense, such as tagging all safety equipment, including ladders,
fall-protection equipment, first-aid kits and fire extinguishers, each quarter. Our employees, in the field and in the office, are held to a very high level of responsibility.

Each quarter we have a mandatory “stand down”, much like a military operation. This is when everyone stops all activities and inspects all job-site gear. We examine electrical tools, cords and equipment for proper function and wear and tear. Gear is tagged according to the color of the season as required by OSHA. Additionally, all ladders are inspected and tagged for acceptance. We exchange all our personal fall-protection equipment with each other and have it inspected in accordance with OSHA requirements. It is then tagged with the proper-color tape and worn; damaged equipment is replaced.

In addition, Columbia Roofing & Sheet Metal holds a mandatory “Save A Back” training every two years. Everyone, including me, attends a half-day of training on a Saturday. Save A Back is a program that began in New Zealand more than 30 years ago. It explains how to properly lift and focuses on workplace movement design, not just lifting with your legs. This makes it very different from many techniques taught in the U.S. Our employees in the field also conduct a “Stretch and Flex” activity every morning, led by the foreman, to help prevent injuries. Our foremen have been trained via Save A Back, and all the activities we engage in with our employees are moves taught by Save A Back.

All these efforts not only have helped us at work, but also benefit us in our daily lives.

In fact, our employees are encouraged to take safe practices home with them. We encourage personal-protective equipment and processes even when off the clock doing household chores. It is easy to skip following work-safety practices when off the clock, but we explain that everything we teach is for our employees and their friends to take home; it is the Columbia way!

I believe these rigorous safety standards have helped our company achieve a great insurance program and better customers who require low insurance modification rates (mod rates) on workers’ compensation. It also shows our customers we are serious about their safety, as well as ours. We have had two OSHA fines in 18 years in the roofing business. I believe this shows we are “walking the talk”!

We have found being safety conscious is also profitable. You are never “money ahead” making sacrifices related to safety. We spend less time processing claims, talking with lawyers and families, doing light-duty work, dealing with OSHA and losing customers over safety issues. The value of sending home employees and customers to their families in a healthy way—every day—is priceless.

NRCA Awarded $137,000 OSHA Grant, Will Conduct Fall-protection Classes in Coming Year

The Rosemont, Ill.-based NATIONAL ROOFING CONTRACTORS ASSOCIATION has been awarded a $137,000 grant through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Susan Harwood Training Grant program. The grant will enable NRCA to continue to conduct its successful Roofing Industry Fall Protection A to Z course free of charge for a year and will include classes taught in Spanish.

“NRCA is acutely concerned with preventing roof-related falls. This OSHA grant has been and continues to be vital to that pursuit,” says Tom Shanahan, NRCA’s associate executive director of risk management. “It allows for one-on-one hands-on fall protection and prevention training that is importantly roofing-specific.”

Roofing Industry Fall Protection A to Z is a one-day class that provides updates about fall-protection systems and includes current OSHA state-plan requirements. It also features hands-on equipment demonstrations and techniques for self-rescue and relief of suspension trauma.

NRCA will conduct 12 classes in eight cities, including four classes in Spanish. View dates and locations at RoofingMagazine.com/events.

The Susan Harwood Training Grant Program provides grants to fund education and training for workers and employers to help them recognize workplace safety and health hazards, implement injury and illness prevention measures, and inform them of their rights and responsibilities. This year, OSHA awarded $10,687,000 in grants to 78 non-profit organizations.

For information about NRCA and its services and offerings, visit NRCA.net.

How Is Your Fall-protection Plan?

Citing “record numbers” of unsafe roofing complaints in the Denver area during the first half of 2014, OSHA began its own outreach efforts and partnered with organizations, like the Colorado Roofing Association (CRA) and the Better Business Bureau (BBB), to make fall protection a priority among roofers and encourage consumers to hire roofing companies who do.

“In the past six months, we have received 63 complaints related to unsafe work practices, and this is the beginning of roofing season,” said David Nelson, OSHA’s area director in Englewood, Colo.

This emphasis contains two messages: the first to get consumers to hire contractors with a safety plan and good record; the second to prompt roofers to develop and follow safe work practices.

FOR CONSUMERS

Among its efforts, OSHA emphasized that home and business owners should use the OSHA website, CRA and BBB to hire reputable roofing companies with a safe work record without safety violations. OSHA advises consumers ask probing questions of roofing contractor’s safety plans, such as:

    ▪▪ Are the installers your employees or subcontractors?
    ▪▪ Are they insured?
    ▪▪ What is their past work history?
    ▪▪ How will the project be managed?
    ▪▪ What kind of fall protection will be used?

FOR ROOFING CONTRACTORS

For roofing contracting companies, OSHA hosted a 2014 National Safety Stand-Down week on June 2-6 that encouraged employers to stop work for one week to discuss fall hazards and safety measures.

At the end of June, the same OSHA Region 8 (Colorado, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota) announced it was going to spend extra energy enforcing safety in roofing following increased construction after a hailstorm.

“Falls from roofs, ladders and scaffolds can be prevented by planning ahead, providing the right equipment for the job and by training everyone working on a project to use the equipment safely,” said Jeff Funke, OSHA’s area director in Billings, Mont.

These efforts demonstrate that roofing companies need to be prepared and committed to an effective fall-protection safety plan and be able to answer questions about it to prevent injuries and protect the company if an accident happens, as well as help win jobs if customers ask about the safety plan.

REVIEW YOUR FALL-PROTECTION PLAN

Considering the reasons for adhering to a comprehensive plan, take a moment and review your fall-protection procedures. This should be done annually, anyway.

Ideally, all potential hazards that could be encountered are eliminated or addressed through proper protection, work practices and training. Often, expertise, past experience or industry standards will point out these potential work hazards that need to be rectified.

According to information provided by OSHA’s outreach, a comprehensive fall-protection plan should include at least preventing falls from roofs, ladders and scaffolding. OSHA stresses the need to plan for safety, provide the correct equipment and ensure everyone is trained in safe work practices. Consider the following:

FALLS FROM ROOFS
Employees need to know when to wear a harness and how to ensure it fits. The proper guardrails and lifelines need to be implemented and used. Employees need to inspect all fall-protection equipment before using it and be able to determine when it is no longer safe. Holes, open stairwells, openings and skylights must be securely covered or guarded.

FALLS FROM LADDERS
Employees must know how to select the correct ladder and the proper way to safely use all ladders. Regardless of the type of ladder, users must maintain three points of contact; always face the ladder; and, without overreaching, secure the ladder on level footing; as well as never stand on the top step.

Extension ladders are not self-supporting and, therefore, need a stable structure and foundation to withstand the load. In addition, the area around the bottom and top of the ladder must have sufficient unobstructed space.

Plan to have an extension ladder that can hold at least four times the weight you intend to put on it. That includes any people and equipment and materials.

Also have a “competent person” visually inspect the ladder and secure the top of the ladder to a solid support. (A competent person is a technical term for someone who has the training and experience to know how to act safely and the authority to make a decision.)

Other safe work practices that should be followed include:

    ▪▪ Check the location of power lines before placing the ladder.
    ▪▪ Stay near the middle of the rungs while going up or down.
    ▪▪ Use barriers while on the ladder to keep traffic away, especially near doors and entryways.
    ▪▪ Only use the ladder for the purpose it was designed.

FALLS FROM SCAFFOLDS
Basic scaffold safety incorporates using fully planked scaffolds and ensuring they are sturdy, plumb and level with all guardrails completed and with stable footing. The scaffold must be used properly and accessed through a properly provided route; users should not climb on cross braces or stand on guardrails. Ladders also can’t be used on top of a scaffold.

A competent person—someone with the experience to recognize hazards and the authority to fix them—must inspect the scaffold before use.

STAY AHEAD OF OSHA

OSHA’s outreach is another example of it using incidents and complaints to focus attention on an industry. But it’s not just roofing contractors who are receiving increased attention.

In February, OSHA contacted communication-tower employers to remind them of their responsibility to train and monitor employee fall protection following 13 deaths in 2013 and four in the first weeks of 2014—a total higher than in the previous two years combined.

Ultimately, OSHA has reason to focus on particular industries, so it’s imperative you ensure your fall-protection program is effective.

OSHA Extends Comment Period for Proposed Workplace Injuries and Illnesses Rule

The OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY AND HEALTH ADMINISTRATION is extending the comment period on the proposed rule to improve tracking of workplace injuries and illnesses to Oct. 14, 2014. The proposal, published Nov. 8, 2013, would amend the agency’s record-keeping regulation to add requirements for the electronic submission of injury and illness information that employers are already required to keep.

During the public meeting held on the proposal, many participants expressed concern that the proposal may create motivation for employers to under-record injuries and illnesses because each covered establishment’s injury and illness data would become publicly available on OSHA’s website. Participants also expressed concern that the proposal would lead to an increase in the number of employers who adopt practices that discourage employees from reporting recordable injuries and illnesses. OSHA is concerned the accuracy of the data collected under the new proposal could be compromised if employers adopt these practices.

“OSHA wants to make sure that employers, employees and the public have access to the most accurate data about injuries and illnesses in their workplaces so that they can take the most appropriate steps to protect worker safety and health,” says Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels.

Therefore, OSHA is soliciting comments on whether to amend the proposed rule to require that employers inform their employees of their right to report injuries and illnesses, more clearly communicate the requirement that any injury and illness reporting requirements established by the employer be reasonable and not unduly burdensome, and provide OSHA an additional remedy to prohibit employers from taking adverse action against employees for reporting injuries and illnesses.

Individuals interested in submitting comments may do so electronically at Regulations.gov, the federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Comments may also be submitted via mail or facsimile. See the Federal Register notice for details.

A Roofer’s Guide to Safely Navigating an OSHA Inspection

Almost every American can recite his or her Miranda rights. We have all seen enough cop dramas and world’s wildest police chases on prime-time television to know that when the police, FBI or other law-enforcement agencies get involved that we have the right to remain silent, and we know that everything we say can and will be used against us in a court of law. Unfortunately, many roofing contractors in the construction industry do not remember their rights when an OSHA inspector arrives at their job sites, and this can lead to hefty fines. It is very important for residential and commercial roofing contractors to remember OSHA inspectors are adversaries when they visit your job site, and they are not inspecting your equipment and interviewing the crew out of curiosity. When an OSHA inspector arrives onsite, he or she is usually there to gather evidence to issue a citation.

One of the most discouraging situations that we have seen from OSHA’s recent push for larger fines and more citations occurs when honest men and women in the roofing industry open their arms to OSHA inspectors who arrive at the job. Roofing contractors and their crews are not criminals, and most truly have nothing to hide. The majority of contractors in the industry are hesitant to take a firm stance against an apparently well-to-do government agent on their job site. However, a roofer who opens up and allows OSHA inspectors free and unlimited access to a construction site is making a costly mistake. Therefore, it is important to remember that when OSHA visits on your next project, there are a few key questions that every roofing contractor needs to be able to answer about the inspection.

WHY IS OSHA ON MY JOB SITE?

OSHA will investigate a job site for a number of reasons. Inspectors will show up if an employee has issued a complaint against you, if there is a recent fatality or if there is an imminent threat identified. However, in recent months, OSHA has been after
the residential and commercial roofing industry through a systematic targeting method. The dangers of fall-related injuries in the industry have been well-documented, and this has prompted inspectors in your area to be on the lookout for roofers. Additionally, roofers are the easiest to cite due to the fact that roofing is a highly visible construction trade and an inspector does not have to use much effort to determine the likelihood of a dangerous situation that needs inspecting.

DO I HAVE TO COMPLY? HOW SHOULD I COMPLY? WHAT HAPPENS IF I REFUSE OSHA ACCESS?

First and foremost, you need to know that OSHA has a legal right to inspect your job site. OSHA has what is called “administrative probable cause” to inspect and investigate your project. OSHA’s probable cause is more easily obtained than that of other agencies. An officer of city, state or federal law enforcement needs a much more specific probable cause to enter a private citizen’s property. When an active construction job is taking place, there is an inherent risk of danger and injury, and this gives OSHA all the administrative probable cause it needs.

This is not to say that you or your site superintendent does not have the right to deny OSHA access to the project and demand that the inspector get a warrant. The site superintendent has the option to consent to OSHA’s inspection or deny the inspector access to the project. The superintendent is well within his or her rights to tell the inspector to get a warrant. This is not an easy fix, however. If you tell OSHA to get a warrant, it most certainly will. Because of OSHA’s broad power to oversee safety within the U.S., the agency can obtain a warrant from a judge or magistrate. Once OSHA obtains a warrant for a site inspection, its inspection can become much more invasive. This means OSHA inspectors can get permission from a judge to examine documents; conduct extensive interviews; and also perform scientific tests on items, such as air quality, presence of combustible material or any other danger.

The bottom line is that it is rarely a good idea to tell an OSHA compliance officer to get a warrant. The reasoning behind this has to do with the scope of OSHA’s inspection rights under the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). The CFR demands that OSHA’s inspection be “reasonable.” This essentially means that the agency is limited to inspect only the men, equipment and materials that are within “plain sight.” “Plain sight” is a doctrine borrowed from criminal law and the Fourth Amendment, which says that a government agent may not sample or manipulate anything that is not within his or her reasonable line of sight. If an agent violates this doctrine, it is possible all the information he or she obtained during the inspection may be suspect.

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OSHA’s Fall Protection Clarifications for Roofers

OSHA’s fall-protection regulations are easy to find (see OSHA 29 CFR, Subpart M, 1926.500 – 1926.503 and four appendixes). Understanding them is a bit more difficult because they apply to a variety of occupations, including roofing.

The following clarifications are OSHA’s responses to questions regarding fall-protection requirements and work practices affect roofers:

ROOF OPENINGS

The “Holes” section of the regulation requires the use of fall protection— personal fall-arrest systems (PFAS), guardrails, safety nets, covers, etc.—when there is a hole in a work/walking surface. Because a roof is a work/walking surface, employees must be protected from falling through. OSHA concluded that immediately securing a cover over a cut hole is sufficient because the cover eliminates the fall hazard requiring fall protection. The rest of the environment may still require fall protection.

SUPPLYING MATERIAL TO THE ROOF

A supplier who delivers roofing material onto a roof must use all available fall protection, meaning a sufficient ladder or other means with a sturdy handhold. A supplier also must wear personal fall-protection equipment and connect to existing anchorage points when receiving and delivering materials on a roof.

If anchorage points do not exist for workers at the site, suppliers are not required to install anchorage points because they spend so little time at the job site. Anchorage points are the primary contractor’s responsibility, and it’s the supplier’s responsibility to use available fall protection.

CONTROLLED ACCESS ZONES

A controlled access zone (CAZ) is a designated work area marked by a warning line that only authorized employees can cross to work next to an unprotected edge. This less-safe approach is explicitly reserved for leading-edge work (the changing unprotected side of a roof or floor as it is installed) and overhand brickwork.

Except for steep roofs (slopes greater than 4-inches vertical to 12-inches horizontal) and non-residential roofing, CAZs are an option if you can prove traditional fall protection is not possible or too dangerous. Just be prepared to justify in writing why other fall protection isn’t effective; identify all authorized employees; and investigate all accidents and near accidents.

Some examples where traditional fall protection fails:

    ▪▪ Safe anchors cannot be provided.
    ▪▪ Lifelines may entangle or mire in grout.
    ▪▪ Fall protection prevents completion of the work.
    ▪▪ Work-area configuration causes ineffective fall-arrest systems.

At the very least, the CAZ must include a safety monitoring system.

USING SAFETY MONITORS ON LOW-SLOPE ROOFS

A safety monitor is a competent person responsible for recognizing and warning employees they are in danger of falling. The monitor counts as part of the fall-protection solution on low-slope roofs.

The following are fall-protection options on low-slope roofs:

    ▪▪ Guardrails
    ▪▪ Safety nets
    ▪▪ PFAS
    ▪▪ Warning lines and guardrails
    ▪▪ Warning lines and safety nets
    ▪▪ Warning lines and PFAS
    ▪▪ Warning lines and safety monitors
    ▪▪ Safety monitors on roofs 50-feet wide or less

The safety monitor must:

    ▪▪ Be competent to recognize fall hazards.
    ▪▪ Warn employees when it appears they are unaware of a fall hazard or are acting unsafely.
    ▪▪ Be on the same work/walking surface as monitored employees and be able to see them.
    ▪▪ Be close enough to talk to the employees.
    ▪▪ Not have any other responsibilities.
    ▪▪ Ensure employees follow warnings and directions.

Also, mechanical equipment can’t be in safety monitoring areas. Because these feasibility exceptions are only listed in specific categories (low-slope roof work, leading-edge work, precast concrete erection and residential construction), if a worker doesn’t fit those categories, such as HVAC installation, the worker must follow conventional fall protection. Alternative plans are generally for situations in which there isn’t a completed structure to attach anchor points; once anchor points are available, OSHA favors regular fall protection.

WARNING LINE FOR NON-ROOFERS

OSHA’s stance on fall protection is that there is no safe working distance away from an unprotected edge. But in an interpretation of workers on a low-slope roof, having just a warning line at least 15 feet from the edge of a roof for non-roofers (HVAC installers) would be considered a “de minimis” violation if non-roofers are prohibited from crossing the warning line. A de minimis violation violates regulations without making the workplace less safe and doesn’t result in a citation.

ASSEMBLING AND INSTALLING ROOFS

OSHA assumes traditional fall protection is safer than creating an alternative plan and has described some industry approaches to assembling and installing roofs without foregoing fall-protection precautions just because an anchor isn’t convenient:

    ▪▪ Assemble the roof on the ground and use a crane to place it.
    ▪▪ Use permanent and reusable roof anchors and reusable truss braces while working from ladders or platforms at both ends to brace the trusses without needing to be on them.
    ▪▪ Once trusses are braced, begin initial sheathing at the eaves with workers on platforms inside the structure, removing braces one at a time. Sheath the last course while tied off to existing wood anchors.

When OSHA regulations meet the real world, they can leave you wondering how they should be interpreted, and roofing is no exception. Hopefully this summary of how OSHA has interpreted fall protection for roofing situations clarifies some of the questions.

This Week: NRCA and United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers Jointly Support National Safety Stand-Down

This is a joint statement attributable to William Good, executive vice president of the National Roofing Contractors Association, and Kinsey M. Robinson, international president of the United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers

On behalf of the United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers (UURWAW) and National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA), we would like to voice our support for the National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction, organized by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), taking place throughout the U.S. from June 2-6, 2014.

The latest statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show 65 workers in the roofing industry died in 2012 from falls that occurred as they were doing their jobs. Those numbers are not just cold statistics but reflect 65 families that have been changed forever by the loss of a loved on—a spouse, father, mother, son or daughter whose death has left a void in the hearts of family and friends.

The National Safety Stand-Down is an effort to focus company and worker attention on the significance of fall hazards in construction and emphasize the importance of effectively implementing fall-protection systems on every project. NRCA and UURWAW encourage their members and all involved in the roofing industry to participate in the National Safety Stand-Down by delivering focused fall-protection awareness toolbox talks at the start of each day during that week and throughout the year. Special materials have been developed by UURWAW and NRCA for this purpose that can be accessed on our websites and printed for use each day.

Let’s pledge to continue the efforts to increase awareness of fall hazards, not just that week but throughout the year so all workers are safe performing the critical, quality work they do and are able to go home to their families each day!

2012 Fatal Work Injuries Are Second Lowest Reported Since 1992

The final count of fatal work injuries in the United States in 2012 was 4,628, up from 4,383 preliminarily reported in August 2013. The final 2012 total was the second-lowest annual total recorded since the fatal injury census was first conducted in 1992. The overall fatal work injury rate for the United States in 2012 was 3.4 fatal injuries per 100,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) workers, down slightly from the final rate of 3.5 reported for 2011.

The final fatal work injury rate for 2012 is the lowest rate published by the program since the conversion to hours-based rates in 2006. The final 2012 numbers reflect updates to the 2012 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) file made after the release of preliminary results in August 2013. Revisions and additions to the 2012 CFOI counts result from the identification of new cases and the revision of existing cases based on source documents received after the release of preliminary results. A table summarizing the results of the update process appears on the next page.

Among the changes resulting from the updates:

  • The total number of contractors fatally injured on the job in 2012 rose to 715 fatalities after updates were included. Contract workers accounted for over 15 percent of all fatal work injuries in 2012. For more information, see the
    table on contractor data.
  • Roadway incidents were higher by 109 cases (or 10 percent) from the preliminary count, increasing the total number of fatal work-related roadway incidents in 2012 to 1,153 cases. The final 2012 total represented a 5-percent increase over the final 2011 count.
  • The number of fatal work injuries involving Hispanic workers was higher by 40 fatalities after updates were added, bringing the total number of fatally injured Hispanic workers to 748. That total was about the same as the 2011 total (749), but the fatality rate for Hispanic workers declined to 3.7 per 100,000 FTE workers in 2012, down from 4.0 in 2011.
  • Work-related suicides increased by 24 cases to a total of 249 after updates were added. Workplace homicides were higher by 12 cases after the updates, raising the workplace homicide total in 2012 to 475 cases.
  • In the private transportation and warehousing sector, fatal injuries increased by 9 percent from the preliminary count, led by a net increase of 44 cases in the truck transportation sector.
  • A net increase of 31 fatal work injuries in the private construction sector led to a revised count of 806 for that sector. The 2012 total was an increase of 9 percent over the 2011 total and represented the first increase in fatal work injuries in private construction since 2006.

Overall, 36 states revised their counts upward as a result of the update process. CFOI has compiled an annual count of all fatal work injuries occurring in the U.S. since 1992 by using diverse data sources to identify, verify and profile fatal work injuries. For more information, see Chapter 9 of the BLS Handbook of Methods.

NRCA Testifies about OSHA’s Proposed Crystalline Silica Rule

The National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA) provided testimony on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) proposed rule to amend its existing standards for occupational exposure to respirable crystalline silica. The testimony was part of a three-week public hearing process held by OSHA.

“In roofing, as OSHA understands very well, our overriding safety concern is falls. The best safety practices in the industry include keeping roofing workers away from the edge of the roof, protecting them from tripping on the roof, and minimizing their trips up and down ladders,” said NRCA Executive Vice President William Good, who testified on behalf of the association. “Unfortunately, we fear the new rule will dramatically increase the risk of falls, because of the nature of roofing work.”

Good explained that in the roofing industry, silica exposures are limited to operations where tile roofs are being installed because the tiles need to be cut to fit in place on the roof. The proposed rule’s engineering controls would require roofing workers to either use wetting or vacuuming, both of which could introduce new tripping hazards because they involve placing hoses on rooftops. In addition, wetting would result in slippery tiles, which is particularly dangerous on steep-slope roofs.

Visuals of a typical tile roofing job site were presented during Good’s testimony to illustrate NRCA’s concern.

“Ours is a unique industry with unique hazards, and a one-size-fits-all approach to reducing silica exposures not only won’t work for us but will likely, in fact, create other hazards that are more immediate and life threatening,” Good continued.

OSHA’s public hearing on the new crystalline silica rule is scheduled to conclude April 4.

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.”