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September 2014: Government Affairs

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Government Affairs

Will OSHA Listen?

borg_1114Final post-public hearing comments have been submitted to OSHA in response to their proposed new rule to further reduce the permissible amount of workers’ exposure to crystalline silica.

 Stephen A. BorgWell, we have finally come to the end of our public participation with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) as we have recently filed our final post-public hearing comments to OSHA in response to their proposed new rule to further reduce the permissible amount of workers’ exposure to crystalline silica.All post-hearing public comments were due Aug. 18, 2014, and this sets in motion the final stages of OSHA’s silica rulemaking. OSHA will now take the time to review all of the comments that they have received from the public, including all pre-hearing comments, all comments made during the public hearing, and all comments received during the post-hearing comment period, and review the rule that they first proposed nearly a year ago.This review process can result in numerous different outcomes and can last as short or as long as OSHA deems is necessary to make its decision. The three outcomes that OSHA can pursue after this review process are to keep the rule as was first proposed in September of 2013; modify the original proposed rule; or to withdraw the rule all together. As has always been the MCAA’s position, we still firmly hope that OSHA will completely withdraw this proposed rule as we believe that it is not needed, it is infeasible, and it will destroy the masonry industry if it is implemented as originally written.As we have stated previously in this column, part of MCAA’s game plan to combat this misguided and infeasible rule was to join together with 25 other associations who represent almost every facet of the construction industry, to create the Construction Industry Safety Coalition (CISC) and show OSHA the drastic impact that this rule would have on the construction industry. We have spent the last year formulating strategies, submitting comments, participating in the public hearings, and meeting with members of Congress to educate everyone on this rule and its potential impact.Throughout this process, the MCAA, our coalition partners, and the CISC have provided OSHA will a detailed, data-driven story on why this rule is unwarranted, technologically infeasible, economically infeasible, and a massive job destroyer.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.It is now up to OSHA to listen to the industry that this rule would impact the greatest – the construction industry – and withdraw this rule or completely re-work it with the input of the construction industry.While we are pleased with the response we have received so far with 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.While OSHA can submit a final rule as soon as they are able, we fully expect this final rule to be finalized well over a year from now, so it is imperative that you take the time to educate yourself on this rule at www.osha.gov and www.masoncontractors.org/silica. Share your concerns with your members of Congress. 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 Borg is VP of The Keelen Group, www.keelengroup.com.

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