AFS Testifies in Public Hearing on OSHA Proposed Crystalline Silica Rule
March 31, 2014
On Friday, March 28, a panel of representatives for the American Foundry Society and the U.S. metalcasting industry presented testimony during public hearings held at the U.S. Department of Labor on the Occupational Safety & Health Administration’s (OSHA) proposed crystalline silica standard. The AFS panel consisted of Tom Slavin, AFS Safety & Health Committee Chair and Consulting Industrial Hygienist at Cardno ChemRisk; Bob Scholz, TRC Environmental Corp.; Chris Norch, Denison Industries; Peter Mark, Grede Holdings; Jerry Call, AFS CEO; and Al Spada, AFS director of marketing, communications and public relations.
The crystalline silica standard proposal, which was released at the end of August 2013, would cut the permissible exposure limit (PEL) in half to 50 micrograms of respirable crystalline silica per cubic meter of air. The current PEL for general industry is approximately 100 micrograms per cubic meter of air. AFS’s outside consultants estimate the costs to meet the lower level will be more than $2.2 billion a year for the metalcasting industry. Based on this analysis, the proposed PEL would impose annual costs equivalent to 9.9% of the foundry industry’s revenue and 276% of its profits.
“The requirements in OSHA’s proposed silica rule are overly burdensome and not achievable for the foundry industry,” Mark said in his testimony Friday. “They will significantly impair U.S. foundries’ ability to compete in a global economy, force foundries to go out of business, and others to shift production offshore.”
Public hearings on the proposal began March 18 and were expected to take three weeks. In the testimony, AFS called on OSHA to:
- Change the formulaic PEL for respirable crystalline silica exposure in foundries to a simple value of 100 µg/cu.m.
- Work with employers to improve compliance with this newly-adopted PEL of 100 µg/cu.m through training, outreach and compliance assistance.
- Work with NIOSH to help develop innovative approaches to the issues of the industry.
- Work with EPA to allow expansion of ventilation systems to reduce employee exposures under currently permitted criteria.
- Withdraw its proposal, correct the flaws in its economic and technological assessments and modify it to make it economically feasible and allow the use of the most cost effective means of compliance for the metalcasting industry.
“Foundries compete on many levels, but when it comes to health and safety, foundries have freely shared information about controls and best practices,” Call testified. “Despite extensive, expensive and sincere efforts, consistent compliance with the current PEL—which OSHA proposes to cut in half—has not proven feasible in critical areas of the foundry.”
Friday’s more than three-hour testimony included substantive, non-contentious dialogue and questions between OSHA and the AFS panel. Several agency officials complimented AFS on the quality and detailed data the industry provided to the agency.
AFS relied on the input of many companies and individuals in the metalcasting facility and are grateful to those who:
- Filled out an industry survey on the issue.
- Provided data.
- Provided costs for items OSHA had underestimated or not provided any costs at all.
- Furnished examples of how the rule would impact individual foundries.
- Reviewed testimony and comments.
- Offered financial support for AFS’s team of experts and legal expenses.
Headquartered in Schaumburg, Ill., AFS is a not-for-profit technical and management society that has existed since 1896 to provide and promote knowledge and services that strengthen the metalcasting industry for the ultimate benefit of its customers and society.