Small Business Review Panel Report Issued on Silica Exposure
On December 19, the Small Business Review Panel submitted its report on OSHA's draft proposed standard on crystalline silica exposure to Assistant Secretary of Labor John Henshaw for his review. The report recommends the "no rule" option - meaning that in lieu of proposing a whole new set of stringent standards on silica exposure, OSHA should dedicate more resources to enforcement of the existing permissible exposure limit (PEL). This could be done through alliances with industry, education, outreach, research and compliance assistance and avoid the potentially devastating economic impact a new rule would have on the overall construction industry.
The Panel's report was the compilation of comments submitted by small business representatives within the construction industry, general industry and maritime (three from MCAA), all of whom provided constructive criticism and suggested the "no rule" approach.
In a nutshell, the Panel found that OSHA had greatly underestimated the costs and complexity of the draft proposal; the standard is overly broad and somewhat vague; most of its provisions are technically infeasible and the potential for liability enormous.
The Panel recommended that OSHA (1) carefully consider and solicit comment on the alternative of improved outreach and support for the existing standard; (2) examine what has and has not been accomplished by existing outreach and enforcement efforts; and (3) examine and fully discuss the need for a new standard and if such a standard can accomplish more than improved outreach and enforcement.
In MCAA's view, the findings of the Panel were right on target. The question now becomes whether or not the Labor Department will simply ignore them and move forward with a proposed rule. Given the negativity of the findings, I doubt seriously the Department will find it possible to disregard them, particularly when they would be certain to dramatically impact the fastest growing sector of the economy - construction. The Bush Administration may be confident about November, but why put forth such a flawed regulatory policy latent with economic disaster. MCAA has been working directly with the Assistant Secretary for Policy at Labor and others on Capitol Hill to make this case and won't rest until all of our concerns regarding economic and technical feasibility are addressed.
About the Author
Marian J. Marshall was the Director of Government Affairs for the Mason Contractors Association of America.