As you are probably aware, MCAA has been heading up the Construction Industry Silica Task Force for the last two years, as well as collecting data and drafting a task-based proposal to limit employee exposures to respirable crystalline silica. While we believe our task force document is very sound, additional data collection remains to be completed. To that end, MCAA's director of government affairs, Marian Marshall, has had numerous discussions with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) about collaborating with them on future data collection efforts and research.
This task-based approach is not only the most effective means, both technologically and economically, for achieving our goals, but it is also the approach supported by NIOSH. Having this additional support may be critical in convincing OSHA that the Silica Task Force's findings should be the basis for any future silica standard that the agency develops.
And, concerning the OSHA standard, readers should be aware that OSHA published its semi-annual regulatory agenda on Oct. 31, and it is moving forward with a proposed rule on silica. OSHA also mentions proposals by the Building Trades division of AFL-CIO, as well as the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM). Both proposals contain requirements for exposure monitoring and medical surveillance, which would be cost-prohibitive for the industry, to say the very least.
The ASTM proposal is particularly problematic because they are developed as "national consensus" standards and, under the law, OSHA is required to adopt the provisions of "national consensus" standards or indicate why the approach the agency is taking is more effective.
The next integral part of this whole puzzle is the OSHA risk assessment. The risk assessment is the barometer, if you will, for what the agency will ultimately decide to propose as a comprehensive standard for addressing workplace exposures to respirable crystalline silica. The risk assessment is simply this: a group of scientific studies that have been reviewed by OSHA and are found to contain significant evidence that the health effects of silica warrant further review. It is expected that this risk assessment process will be completed in April 2006. For the very first time, OSHA will release this risk assessment for public comment. Once published, the Silica Task Force will undertake an in-depth, critical analysis of this document and determine whether or not adjustments in our task force document may be necessary.
In the meantime, we have a lot of work to do, but at this stage of the game all the pieces seem to be coming together very well. We are dedicated and on course to present an excellent set of recommendations to OSHA for limiting occupational exposures to respirable crystalline silica on construction job sites.
This is an enormous undertaking, but one that will prove the most effective in protecting the health of our workers while also preserving the integrity of our industry.
Finally, many thanks to Marshall and Mark Kemp, MCAA member and chairman of the Silica Task Force, for their hard work and dedication on this issue.
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