OSHA's enforcement of the respirable crystalline silica standard for construction, which began in September, will mean changes in companies' jobsite practices that are worth addressing in corporate communications and outreach.
Dealing with new and updated regulations is part of life in the construction industry. Occasionally, however, a new rule comes along that has a significant ripple effect throughout the industry. OSHA's new silica rule (29 CFDR 1926.1153) is an example. It seeks to reduce workers' exposure to respirable crystalline silica, a mineral compound that is released when common construction materials such as asphalt, concrete, or stone (to name but a few) are cut or sawed. It also requires employers to provide medical exams and keep records of workers’ silica exposure and related medical treatment.
How sweeping are its effects? To cite just a couple of statistics:
• An enormous number of workers are affected. 2.3 million workers in the construction, general and maritime industries are believed to be affected by the rule.
• The reduction in permissible exposure is drastic. Equipment World sums up the reduction in permissible exposure limit (PEL) as "an 80-percent reduction in respirable crystalline silica on average during an eight-hour shift."
• Tool and equipment purchases are surging. In a September 2017 Bloomberg BNA article, Bosch Power Tools' director of strategic development said that since July there had been a three-fold increase in purchases of tools and attachments designed to prevent silica exposure.
It's clear that compliance with OSHA's silica rule will be costly for firms as they invest in new tools and equipment, as well as in training, monitoring and recordkeeping. These costs will almost certainly make their way into contractors' bids, as well as into administrative costs for, among other things, disclosure documents for property purchases and renovations.
When companies are required to make extensive changes to their business practices, these changes should be communicated to customers, partners and other stakeholders who stand to feel the impact. Make sure those parties understand the benefits—better health and safety for employees—as well as the costs.
For guidance in explaining OSHA's silica rule to your customers—and to turn them into allies who support your efforts at jobsite safety—contact AOE today.