OSHA’s respirable silica dust final rule draws scrutiny from construction industry trades

© Sikth | Dreamstime.com

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced a final rule to improve protections for workers exposed to respirable silica dust March 24, 2016. The rule, OSHA says, is designed to curb lung cancer, silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and kidney disease in America’s workers by limiting their exposure to respirable crystalline silica.

OSHA estimates that when the final rule on Occupational Exposure to Respirable Crystalline Silica becomes fully effective, it will save more than 600 lives annually and prevent more than 900 new cases of silicosis each year. OSHA predicts the final rule will provide net benefits of about $7.7 billion per year.

The final rule is written as two standards: one for the construction industry and one for general industry and maritime. Employers covered by the construction standard have until June 23, 2017, to comply with most requirements. Many in the construction industry trades disagree with OSHA’s assessment of current safety standards regarding silica and say implementing measures to comply with the new rule will be costly.

The Construction Industry Safety Coalition (CISC), representing 25 trade associations from all sectors of the construction industry, says it has concerns with the final rule. CISC has been a highly engaged participant in the rulemaking process since OSHA put forth the proposed rule two and a half years ago. Upon initial review, CISC says the 1,772-page final rule contains some of the same problematic provisions that the coalition previously identified and shared with the agency.

William Turley, executive director of the Milwaukee-based Construction & Demolition Recycling Association (CDRA), one of the trade groups represented by the CISC, tells Construction & Demolition Recycling, the final rule could have been “a lot worse.”

“I was so concerned they (OSHA) would not recognize that we couldn’t do all of this, and it was going to kill the industry,” says Turley. “Now it appears to be a place where the industry should be able to meet the requirements, save the safety and health of its workers and stay in compliance.”

Specialized control methods spelled out in Table 1 of the rule, which in its initial form would have required concrete recyclers to install bag houses on crushers, has been greatly adjusted. As well, what Turley describes as the “incredibly onerous, ‘no visible emissions’ of dust” has been removed. He adds, “If the recycler follows the requirements in Table 1, then he/she will be exempt from the medical surveillance and emissions monitoring requirements.”

“I was so concerned they (OSHA) would not recognize that we couldn’t do all of this, and it was going to kill the industry. Now it appears to be a place where the industry should be able to meet the requirements, save the safety and health of its workers and stay in compliance.” – William Turley, CDRA executive director

According to Turley, OSHA’s final rule relies heavily on water for dust suppression, including hoppers, conveyors, sizing equipment (screens) and discharge points. It also wants operators to be in enclosed, climate-controlled cabs that are not high above the feed hopper where OSHA says exposure levels are higher.

Turley adds of the final rule, “I think we will be able to survive it. We will [be able to] continue to work as we work as we are now.”

On April 4, eight construction industry organizations filed a petition for review of the rule with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Petitioning groups included: Mississippi Road Builders’ Association; American Subcontractors Association of Texas; Pelican Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors; Louisiana Associated General Contractors; Associated Masonry Contractors of Texas; Distribution Contractors Association; Mechanical Contractors Associations of Texas and Texas Association of Builders. The affiliated national organizations will move to join the petition.

CalRecycle grants fund road repairs using recycled tires

The California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle), Sacramento, California, has approved $5.28 million in grant funding to improve roads in 43 California communities. All projects will make use of rubberized pavement, which combines crumb rubber from recycled tires with traditional materials.

© Stocksnapper | Dreamstime.com

“CalRecycle’s Rubberized Pavement Grant Program is a crucial part of California’s strategy to keep waste tires out of landfills and make use of these materials right here in our state,” CalRecycle Director Scott Smithline says. “As more communities realize the benefits of this environmentally sustainable option for road resurfacing and repair, California will be able to close the loop within our state and turn millions of additional waste tires into a resource that keeps our people safe, reduces costs and protects our environment for future generations.”

The legislature created the Rubberized Pavement Grant Program in 2002 to promote recycling of an estimated 44 million waste tires generated in California each year. With the help of CalRecycle’s tire recycling programs and grants, 38 million of those tires are diverted from landfills—with a large portion being used for road surfacing and civil engineering projects.

The maximum grant award for individual applicants in CalRecycle’s Rubberized Pavement Grant Program is $250,000. For the first time, multiple jurisdictions and joint-power authorities were able submit regional applications for the 2015/2016 grant cycle and receive a maximum grant award of up to $400,000. Grants are funded through a $1.75 fee that consumers pay when purchasing new tires in the state; $1 goes to CalRecycle’s Tire Recycling Management Fund, while the other 75 cents goes to California’s Air Resources Board.

New York agency proposes new solid waste regulations

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has announced proposed revisions to the state’s solid waste regulations. The revisions proposed by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) include measures to improve the state’s regulations over facilities that handle solid waste, including facilities that manage recyclable materials, transfer stations, landfills and biohazard waste facilities. In addition, previously unregulated facilities, including mulch processing facilities will now be regulated.

The regulations also will increase oversight of construction and demolition (C&D) debris and historic fill. The proposed regulations also will provide enhanced safeguards and increase oversight of mulch and compost facilities by requiring facilities to establish water runoff management plans to protect groundwater and placing restrictions on pile size and storage.

The regulations propose to require companies to track the removal of C&D debris and historic fill for the first time ever. In addition, facilities that receive 250 tons/day or greater of concrete, asphalt, rock, brick and soil would be required to obtain a DEC permit. Lower volume processing facilities would be required to register with the state. The proposed regulations also identify acceptable uses for various C&D debris streams and include a new provision for requiring mixed C&D debris processing facilities. The proposal is designed to drastically reduce improper disposal of this debris and reduce threats to groundwater contamination and other environmental degradation.

The proposed revisions can be viewed at www.dec.ny.gov/regulations/ propregulations.html.