NAHB Is Uncomfortable with OSHA’s Proposed Rules on Silica-Laden Dust
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s proposal to impose more-stringent limits on workplace exposure to crystalline silica is an expensive, ‘”one-size-fits-all” plan that could force some contractors to abandon common building materials like granite, stone, and concrete, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) says.
“We need practical, science-based solutions that protect workers in all facets of construction,” NAHB chairman Rick Judson said in a press release Aug. 28. “Unfortunately, OSHA’s initial announcement about this proposed rule indicates we aren’t there yet.”
OSHA announced in Washington on Aug. 23 that it was proposing new rules on exposure to silica, a tiny particle produced when materials like tile, granite, concrete, and mortar are cut, ground, or crushed. The agency said that tougher rules would save hundreds of lives and prevent 1,600 new cases of a lung disease called silicosis annually.
Keeping materials wet or using a vacuum are two ways of controlling silica-laden dust. But NAHB said the use of water isn’t always practical and that dust-capturing systems can make it hard to handle tools safely.
“For instance, spraying water to reduce dust may be practical in some construction projects,” the NAHB statement said, “but using it inside a home while cutting granite counters can cause mold.”
NAHB said the rules could cost the construction industry $1 billion a year, and that if dust-control measures are not practical, contractors might stop using building materials that contain silica.
NAHB said that it belongs to the Construction Industry Safety Coalition, which includes a number of construction trade groups, and was working on a “feasible and cost-effective” proposal on silica exposure.