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The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has formally extended its review period for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) proposed rule that would lower the permissible exposure limit (PEL) on crystalline silica

The extension came after a series of meetings between the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs and industry representatives, including ABC. OMB initially received the proposed rule for review on Feb. 14, which is generally the last step in the process before a rule is proposed. 

In a letter sent to OMB as a follow up to an April 19 meeting, ABC and 10 other organizations requested OSHA publish only a general industry rule at this time, and refrain from issuing a proposal for the construction industry until the agency can gain practical experience that will help promulgate an agreeable, high-quality standard. The letter requested that OSHA accomplish this by publishing an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and seeking further cooperation and input from the construction industry in order to address issues such as: 

  • the uniqueness of the construction industry, where work-related exposures to silica in construction operations are different from those of general industry because construction tasks and activities are highly variable;
  • technological feasibility challenges due to materials, equipment and constantly changing work environments;
  • the economic challenges that could impact the long-term productivity and profitability, as well as the competitive structure of the construction industry; and
  • the possibility of inconsistent or conflicting federal government regulations, including the possibility that the silica rule could conflict with a stormwater rule by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Under the proposed rule, OSHA is expected to reduce the PEL for crystalline silica dust to as low as 0.1 milligram per cubic meter, in addition to setting new requirements on engineering controls and regulated areas.