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Crystalline silica comment period may need an extension

When we mentioned last month that the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration was proposing a change to how much crystalline silica dust an employee could be exposed to, it was understood that many organizations within the construction industry would be upset by the proposed changes. Since the proposed changes were first announced, however, they have had 90 days to review OSHA's findings and make public comments. Yet some of the organizations are arguing that the 90 days just haven't been enough and that they need another 90 days to truly make thoughtful comments on OSHA's proposal.

As we talked about last month, Colorado's construction workers are at serious risk of workplace illness if they are repeatedly exposed to silica dust. The rates of illness and, worse, death are quite high, which is just one of the reasons why OSHA was prompted to change the exposure limits. As it is, if the comment period is not extended, they will be due by Dec. 11.

It goes without saying that reduced exposure limits to crystalline silica dust would go far to make construction sites safer for employees, but they are not necessary to provide for workers who have already fallen ill from breathing in too much silica dust. Any construction worker who becomes ill because of something at work can file for Colorado workers' compensation benefits. These benefits are not tied to federal regulations that regulate exposure to toxic substances.

It is still unknown whether any extension will be granted to the national construction organizations. What with the current federal budget problems, OSHA may fall behind schedule anyway.

Find out more about the dangers of silica dust exposure by reading this previous post.

Source: Occupational Health & Safety magazine, “Groups Seek Comment Extension on Silica Proposed Rule,” Oct. 7, 2013

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