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June 2014 : Government Affairs

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Government Affairs

Silica Public Hearings Concluded

The Mason Contractors Association of America is putting up a sustained fight.

The proposed new rule being pursued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to further reduce the permissible amount of workers’ exposure to crystalline silica is one of the biggest issues facing the masonry industry, and construction industry as a whole. As a part of the MCAA’s game plan to combat this misguided and infeasible rule, the association joined together with 25 other associations that represent almost every facet of the construction industry, to create the Construction Industry Safety Coalition (CISC).

Over many months, the MCAA and CISC have formulated and submitted official comments during the public comment period and, recently, participated in providing in-person testimony during the public hearings held during a three-week period in March at the Department of Labor headquarters in Washington, D.C. Members of the MCAA testified on our behalf, as well as individual members of other construction industry associations, such as the National Association of Home Builders, the Associated General Contractors, and the Associated Builders and Contractors, to name just a few. Finally, representatives of the Construction Industry Safety Coalition spent a full day providing testimony, answering questions from the public and OSHA, and continuing to present our case that this rule is not economically and technologically feasible and cannot be implemented as currently presented.

The responses we have received, so far, from OSHA and other people who have participated in this process have been extremely positive, and we are encouraged by the credibility that we have built up through our data-driven arguments, our willingness to participate in every step of the process, and our willingness to take as many questions as were presented to MCAA and CISC by OSHA and members of the public.  While OSHA gave us an extremely short time period during which to read the proposed rule, gather our own data, formulate our written responses, and prepare our in-person testimony, we feel pleased with the limited response we were able to present.

MCAA leadership just finished participating in an all-day meeting of the Construction Industry Safety Coalition, discussing the outcomes of the public hearings and our next steps moving forward. This coalition meeting was extremely constructive, and we all feel confident we will be able to formulate and submit a strong, data-driven response to OSHA and other participants’ questions and comments now that we have heard and read all the comments that have been officially submitted by all stakeholders during the public comment period and public hearings. Final comments are due to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration from all by July 18, 2014, and we fully expect to submit numerous arguments against this rule, once again.

While we are pleased with the response we have received so far in regard to our participation and the data-driven arguments we have submitted, we know that we must remain committed to these efforts and continue our commitment to fight this rule in a unified and data-driven way. Take the time to educate yourself on this rule at www.osha.gov and www.masoncontractors.org/silica, and share your concerns with us at the MCAA.  The most powerful defense we can use is to show how this rule will drastically affect our members and their businesses, and the more members we have committed to fighting this rule, the more powerful our voice will be.


Stephen A. Borg is vice president of The Keelen Group, www.keelengroup.com.

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