OSHA’s Silica Rule Moves to OMB
December 23, 2015
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sent its crystalline silica rule to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for final review on December 21, 2015. The rule is one of the agency’s top priorities. OMB reviews are limited to 90 days, but in many cases are extended. The text of the rule is not shared with the public until the final rule is released. AFS plans to meet with OMB during this review period, which will likely take place in January or February 2016.
When OSHA proposed the rule in September 2013, it drastically reduced the permissible exposure level from 100 micrograms per cubic meter to 50 µg/m3, with an action level of 25 µg/m3. The silica proposal also would require foundries to implement administrative and engineering controls and a series of ancillary provisions, such as exposure monitoring, medical surveillance, best practices and the establishment of regulated areas. It also bans dry sweeping. In the proposal, OSHA proposes a hierarchy of mandating engineering and workplace controls over simply providing personal protective equipment (PPE) such as respirators, and it specifically bars job rotation as a method of attaining compliance.
OSHA received more than 1,700 comments on the proposed rule and heard testimony from more than 200 stakeholders, including AFS during public hearings on the proposal. In addition, AFS provided extensive and detailed comments to OSHA throughout the rulemaking process, including key economic and technological feasibility issues, as well as how the best available science shows that the current OSHA PEL is appropriate to protect against silica-related disease, provided it is adhered to strictly.
According to the agency’s regulatory agency released in November, the final silica rule is expected to be released in February 2016. However, the number of stakeholders impacted by the rulemaking may lengthen the OMB review and the release will likely slip to March or April. We will continue to update the membership as OSHA moves forward on finalizing its silica rulemaking.