U.S. Chamber Expresses Concern with DOL’s Silica Rule

Thursday, March 24, 2016 - 9:30am

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The U.S. Chamber of Commerce today expressed concerns with the Department of Labor’s (DOL’s) silica rule, which will be felt most by small business owners. The Chamber’s comments, extensive expert submissions, and testimony submitted to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), demonstrated that the agency has not made a persuasive case for such a costly and disruptive rule change.

“The new OSHA regulation is neither technologically nor economically feasible,” said Marc Freedman, executive director of Labor Policy for the Chamber. “Compliance will be undermined by laboratories not being capable of measuring silica at the new specified levels and installing the control systems OSHA requires will cost hundreds of millions of dollars, that most employers, and certainly small businesses, will not be able to afford.” 

Silica, one of the most common materials on earth (e.g. sand), is a critical component in construction, manufacturing, and transportation. The respiratory hazards posed by silica are already successfully regulated. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that silica-related mortality has plummeted in recent decades—more than 93% since 1968. The remaining cases are due to long term exposures above the current OSHA limit, not because the exposure limit was set too high.

A recent Chamber report on the brick industry, titled “Regulatory Indifference Hurts Vulnerable Communities,” cited an industry analysis that OSHA’s new regulation will require almost $1 million per plant to put in place compliance equipment, with an annual cost after that of almost $225,000. “This new regulation will mean workplaces where silica is used or encountered—foundries, glassmaking, ceramics, brick manufacturing, construction, fracking, even auto body repair shops, as well as others, will be out of compliance and forced to spend resources on unneeded mandates such as air monitoring, respirators, medical exams, restricted work areas, and recordkeeping,” Freedman stated.

“OSHA’s rulemaking process for this regulation displayed extreme bias and even deception,” said Freedman. “During the administrative hearing, OSHA representatives conceded that critical testing data was not in the record, and routinely impeded the Chamber’s ability to present its case. The agency relied on aged data and refused to consider modern protective technologies that would make compliance significantly less costly and burdensome.”