WASHINGTON, March 20, 2014 -- The National Industrial Sand Association (NISA) says the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) should adopt an alternative to the rule it proposed last year, which would reduce the permissible occupational exposure level to respirable crystalline silica.
In testimony before an OSHA public hearing on March 20, 2014, NISA president Mark Ellis urged the agency to adopt a comprehensive standard that would require new exposure monitoring and medical surveillance at an action level of 50 micrograms per cubic meter (μg/m3), while maintaining the current permissible exposure limit (PEL) of 100 micrograms per cubic meter (μg/m3). In a work environment, an action level is the exposure level at which an employer must take specific precautions to protect workers and is normally one-half of the permissible exposure limit.
“The NISA Solution would substantially reduce any risks of material health impairment from workplace exposure to crystalline silica arising from the stubbornly high level of noncompliance with the current PEL,” Ellis testified. The companies’ proposal “presents a pragmatic and cost-effective alternative that should be embraced by labor, industry and OSHA.”
The NISA Solution is very similar to OSHA’s own “Alternative #1” in the proposed rule. The agency has said it “will strongly consider alternatives that would reduce the economic impact of the rule.”
Currently, employers are not even required to test the level of respirable silica in their workplaces. As a result, OSHA data show, the rate of noncompliance with its current permissible exposure level is 30 percent. The sand-producing companies believe the adoption of a new comprehensive standard, with new mandatory exposure monitoring, will greatly improve compliance.
“The beauty of the NISA Solution lies in two concepts that OSHA itself has seen the extraordinary value of over the years,” says Ellis: “a potentially achievable action level and a substance-specific standard. A potentially achievable action level drives companies that can meet it to lower their exposures to a level that removes them from the burden of complying with the regulation altogether. And not enough has been said about the simple power of OSHA substance-specific standards, of which there are only around thirty. Once crystalline silica has a dedicated standard, a great deal more attention will be given to controlling what potential hazard this substance may present in the workplace – and this will occur no matter what exposure level is established.”
Links to testimony:
The National Industrial Sand Association (NISA) is a trade association representing the major North American producers and processors of industrial sand (sometimes called silica sand). Founded in 1936, NISA is committed to advancing research and maintaining a dialogue with industry, legislators, regulatory agencies and the scientific community with respect to issues of concern to the industrial sand industry, including the potential health effects associated with the inhalation of respirable crystalline silica. For more information go to: http://www.sand.org