The Association of the Wall and Ceiling Industry has joined the Construction Industry Safety Coalition, a new coalition of national construction industry trade associations that want a practical and cost-effective crystalline silica regulation that will improve the safety and health protection of workers.

OSHA unveiled its proposal for a rule August 23 and it is expected to be published this week in the Federal Register. The National Association of Home Builders said the “one-size-fits-all measures … contradict existing safety and quality assurance practices for different types of contractors.”

Under OSHA’s proposed rule, a construction employer would have to measure and keep records of the amount of respirable crystalline silica that its workers are exposed to if it may be at or above 25 micrograms of silica per cubic meter of air, averaged over an eight-hour day. An employer would have to protect its workers if the exposure is above a permissive exposure level of 50 micrograms of silica per cubic meter of air, averaged over an eight-hour day.

Work-related exposures to silica in construction operations are different from those of other industries, because construction tasks and activities are highly variable and change constantly as projects progress. With a complex rule such as the one that OSHA is proposing, the agency will need to consider factors specific to construction.

OSHA’s proposed silica rule may have the largest impact of any rulemaking undertaken by the agency regarding the construction industry, which estimates compliance costs of $1 billion to $2 billion per year, at a time when most segments of the industry have not yet recovered from the economic downturn. In addition, there has already been a 93 percent drop in the rate of silica-related deaths between 1968 and 2007, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Silica is ubiquitous and occurs in many commonly used building products including concrete, stucco, plaster, bricks/blocks and rocks/stones. Workers can be exposed during certain construction activities such as cutting brick or block, tuck pointing, sawing, grinding or drilling concrete.

The construction industry will likely be saddled with onerous new requirements, and the proposed silica standard may substantially alter its competitive structure. OSHA’s regulatory approach should use the most cost-effective means while still ensuring compliance and worker safety.

The coalition represents thousands of employers working to protect hundreds of thousands of workers in all facets of construction from home building to road repair, and from heavy industrial production to specialty trade contractors and material suppliers. It was formed to advocate that OSHA develop technologically feasible alternatives for compliance with a silica rule that also address costs and consistency with existing federal regulations and do not overly burden small businesses.

The Construction Industry Safety Coalition members are as follows: Associated Builder and Contractors, Associated General Contractors, Association of the Wall and Ceiling Industry, American Road and Transportation Builders Association, American Subcontractors Association, International Council of Employers of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers, Mason Contractors Association of America, Mechanical Contractors Association of America, National Association of Home Builders, National Electrical Contractors Association and National Roofing Contractors Association.