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Crystalline Silica

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has determined that a rule is needed to substantially reduce the risk of serious disease from exposure to airborne concentrations of silica dust. Silica is a component of soil, sand and granite, and occurs in many commonly used building products such as mortar, concrete, bricks, blocks, rocks and stones. It can be disturbed by construction activities ranging from cutting concrete and brick to moving soil around the jobsite.

The final crystalline silica rule issued in March 2016 is the most far-reaching regulatory initiative ever finalized for construction with an industry-estimated cost of $5 billion per year—roughly $4 billion per year more than OSHA estimates. NAHB and the Construction Industry Safety Coalition (CISC) have requested that OSHA withdraw the rule and engage in a dialogue with the construction industry on a more feasible and economical approach to dealing with the silica hazards.

Policy Statement

NAHB urges OSHA to develop a silica rule for the residential construction industry that is cost effective, reasonable and workable for the onsite conditions encountered on residential job sites and any such rule should:

  • Rely on the existing Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) for silica in construction unless or until a comprehensive study demonstrates that the PEL must be made lower for legitimate health reasons
  • Focus on those silica-generating tasks that have been shown by actual, historical or objective (i.e., industry derived) silica exposure monitoring data to generate high levels of silica exposure above the existing PEL
  • Provide clear direction for the construction industry to follow when implementing compliance and safety-related procedures
  • Minimize paperwork and recordkeeping requirements

Why It Matters

NAHB believes the final rule suffers from several flaws. First, the broad language of the regulation means substantial costs to builders and remodelers to cover assessment, record keeping and compliance. Second, certain provisions of the proposed rule are not reasonably necessary or appropriate, and are unworkable in the construction environment. Furthermore, NAHB is concerned that that the rule does not provide clear direction for the construction industry to follow when implementing compliance and safety-related procedures. In May 2016, NAHB, along with 22 other construction industry trade associations, jointly filed a Petition for Review in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals challenging the final silica rule because there are continued concerns that compliance with the final rule is not technologically or economically feasible for the home building industry. NAHB's legal challenge on the silica rule is still pending.