The Regulatory Road Ahead - Caution, It May Get Bumpy!
Whoever said, "the road to Hell is paved with good intentions," must have at some point worked in government. How else would they know that even the most well-intentioned regulations have unintended consequences?
For the masonry industry and construction in general, the regulatory agenda ahead of us is, for lack of a better word, ambitious. Is it well-intentioned? Presumably. After all, the standards being developed are aimed at addressing exposures to hazardous chemicals and other workplace activities that may pose potential harm to employees. We don't take issue with the end result; what we do object to in some instances are the means to achieve the ultimate goal. That MCAA recently aligned with OSHA on forklift safety, wall bracing, fall protections and scaffolding safety is further testament to our commitment to workplace protections. We'd much prefer to address safety and health concerns in a cooperative manner than have overly stringent standards heaped upon us that are both technologically and economically infeasible.
The regulatory path OSHA is now on falls into the latter category. Draft standards for silica and hexavalent chromium ? if implemented in their current form ? will definitely pose a new set of challenges for us. The prospect of complying with provisions requiring monitoring for employee exposures to airborne contaminants, mandatory medical screening, not to mention the establishment of regulated areas on construction sites is definitely unnerving. With that in mind, MCAA is making every effort to put those suggested requirements in the graveyard of ideas. Otherwise, it may well be that even the most forward-thinking companies are forced to close their doors or adapt to an entirely new way of doing business.
Also on the horizon is yet another standard in the development stages ? hearing conservation in construction. Preliminary indications are that OSHA will resist applying the general industry standard to construction; they understand the economic implications could be disastrous. That is not to say, however, that OSHA has ruled out new requirements for audiometric testing ? just one more in a series of costly mandates impacting our industry. In an effort to head that off at the path, MCAA is looking into the possibility of having some testing done throughout the country to establish a baseline. Once that is established, we will have a much better idea about what additional steps our industry might need to take to mitigate possible hearing loss among our employees. Keep your eye on this page for further details.
In addition to the host of regulatory matters we are involved in, MCAA will continue its efforts to get Association Health Plan (AHP) legislation enacted so our members can access more affordable health care for their families and employees.
Also in the works is legislation to provide an enhanced tax deduction for members with certified apprenticeship training programs. It is our hope that a bill will be introduced in the House of Representatives later this spring.
Finally, our main goal for next May is to hold a Legislative Conference here in Washington, D.C., with the National Concrete Masonry Association. We will be scheduling lots of interesting meetings on Capitol Hill and at various federal agencies, and we encourage all members to actively participate in this upcoming conference.
As always, if there are any issues you'd like to bring to my attention, please don't hesitate to get in touch with me at (703) 671-4468. Thanks for your interest.
About the Author
Marian J. Marshall was the Director of Government Affairs for the Mason Contractors Association of America.