MCAA Hosts Silica Task Force Meeting
On Tuesday, June 22, MCAA and the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) hosted an organizational meting of the Silica Task Force. The purpose of the Task Force is to develop a standard set of construction industry work practices and engineering controls which can be used to self-regulate in lieu of compliance with an overly broad, proscriptive, one-size-fits-all standard promulgated by OSHA that contractors could not realistically comply with.
There were close to 30 people in attendance, including representatives from OSHA and the Department of Labor. We nominated a Chairman, Mark Kemp, from Superior Masonry in Wisconsin, and 14 others volunteered their time to sit on the Task Force with me as the Point Person. The Task Force is a good mix of people: contractors, safety directors, legislative representatives, an Industrial Hygienist, a regulatory attorney and equipment manufacturers. Six of the members of the Task Force represent MCAA; two are from the Homebuilders and still others are from AGC, ASA, and ABC.
The Task Force set several goals, including development of educational materials on silica exposure concerns, to focus primarily on construction, particularly masonry, while working with those in general industry who are manufacturers of brick and block and that any set of work practices developed must be task based. Our first step is to collect as much data as possible on as many tasks as possible for which testing has been conducted.
Upon receipt of the data, a subset of the Task Force will convene to review the data to determine where we have holes to plug. If a significant amount of data is lacking, we may have to consider hiring an outside firm to perform testing for us.
OSHA officials in attendance applauded our efforts and said we were certainly on the right track with this approach. In order to meet our goal of self-regulating the industry, we should be prepared to submit a draft best practices manual to OSHA by October. While that may sound like an overly ambitious and very tight time frame, I believe we can submit something to the Health Standards Office which will give them every indication that we are making enough progress that their continued efforts to put forth a standard by early next year are not necessary, at least for construction.
This Task Force definitely has its work cut out for it, but I'm confident that we can achieve the goals we've outlined with appropriate guidance and support from OSHA throughout the process.
If you have any questions about the Task Force, or you'd like to share any data you have on testing for employee exposure to silica, I encourage you to get in touch with me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 703-671-4468.
About the Author
Marian J. Marshall was the Director of Government Affairs for the Mason Contractors Association of America.