OSHA Silica Rule Bad for Businesses and Impossible to Implement

Last Thursday, I offered comments to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) on behalf of the Chamber, arguing against its proposed silica rule, which would cut in half the daily permissible exposure limit (PEL) of workers to respirable crystalline silica (a composition of soil, sand, granite, and other minerals that can be inhaled when workers chip, cut, drill, or grind this material). This rule would burden hundreds of Ohio businesses, such as foundries, oil and gas drillers, and manufactures, with OSHA mandates that lack legislative oversight, which could force them to close their doors. Employees of these companies would be forced to scrap their current production and cleanup systems and replace them with new, restrictive engineering and work practice controls. These include establishing exposure assessments and monitoring, regulated/controlled access areas, respiratory protection programs, additional employee training, and medical surveillance of over-exposed employees for 30 or more days annually.

Businesses that would be hit by these regulations have responded that this rule is an unattainable goal and that it’s impossible to enforce such a low PEL level successfully. They cite compliance costs of billions of dollars for upgrades as well as trial and error expenses. Based on these compliance costs, they argue that OSHA has grossly misjudged the overall compliance cost by billions of dollars. Even more burdensome, OSHA is allowing these businesses only one year to implement all of these mandates.

Considering that there are questions surrounding OSHA’s methodology and the feasibility of its own proposed rule, we believe it best to scrap this rule completely rather than penalize businesses in such an unfair manner. Furthermore, the OSHA elected to extend the comment period by 15 days—a sign that they are considering the strong arguments against the rule and will allow more time to hear additional comments. The Chamber looks forward to continuing the fight against unnecessary and harmful federal regulation.