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NECA Requests Extension to OSHA Proposed Silica Rule

Oct 09, 2013

Electrical Contractors Identifying Conflicting Safety Messages in Proposal

The National Electrical Contractors Association formally requested a 90-day extension for the comment period on OSHA’s proposed rule to reduce the permissible exposure to silica dust. NECA joins several other construction industry organizations to request extension of the comments period and delay the public hearing accordingly.

NECA’s primary concern with the proposed rule is that the data used to set the exposure limits appear to be based on the mining industry, not construction. It also includes various new requirements that are impractical and overly complicated to implement. Additional time is necessary for NECA to provide meaningful comments and suggested revisions based on these facts.

“The proposed rule must be effective with its many new provisions to yield positive results,” wrote Michael J. Johnston, NECA executive director, standards and safety. “There are portions that can be improved and rendered practical and implementable.” Johnston went on to say OSHA’s Dec. 11 deadline for comments was insufficient.

Johnston says the proposed rule to limit silica exposure is a good starting point, but that a thorough review is necessary to adjust the regulations into workable practices for the construction industry. The proposed rule include reducing the permissible exposure limit (PEL) from roughly 50 micrograms of silica dust per cubic meter to 25 micrograms and requiring additional control measures in some circumstances. Other controls include more restrictive monitoring requirements and periodic medical exams in some conditions.

“Some of the suggested control measures for silica, like spraying water to reduce dust, simply wouldn’t work on inside construction projects,” Johnston said. “As electrical contractors, we make every effort to keep water away from electrical installations in progress. That’s one of our industry’s primary safety regulations.”

The proposed rule includes over 750 pages of guidelines. “NECA has the responsibility to make a careful and thorough review of the complete document to identify places where electrical safety is at cross-purposed with the proposed silica rule,” Johnston said.

NECA’s letter to OSHA requesting an extension for the comments period and OSHA’s fact sheet on silica exposure are available online.

Download NECA's letter to OSHA

About the Construction Industry Safety Coalition

NECA is part of the Construction Industry Safety Coalition, which is seeking a feasible and cost-effective crystalline silica regulation that improves safety and health protection measures for workers. The coalition represents thousands of employers working to protect hundreds of thousands of workers in home building, road repair, heavy industrial production, specialty trades and materials supply. It was formed to encourage OSHA to develop better choices for compliance with the construction-specific silica rule: alternatives that also address costs, consistency with existing federal regulations and do not overly burden small businesses.

About the National Electrical Contractors Association

NECA is the voice of the $130 billion electrical construction industry that brings power, light, and communication technology to buildings and communities across the U.S. NECA contractors help customers achieve their goals for energy conservation, efficiency and renewable power. NECA’s national office and 119 local chapters advance the industry through advocacy, education, research and standards development. For more information, visit www.necanet.org.