News Release: OSHA extends comment period - silica rule

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OSHA Statement: 13-2081-NAT
Date: Oct. 25, 2013
Contact: Jesse Lawder
Phone: 202-693-4659

OSHA extends comment period on proposed silica rule
to provide additional time for public input

WASHINGTON – The U.S Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration is extending the public comment period for an additional 47 days on the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Occupational Exposure to Crystalline Silica.

In response to requests for an extension, the deadline to submit written comments and testimony is being extended from Dec. 11, 2013, to Jan. 27, 2014, to allow stakeholders additional time to comment on the proposed rule and supporting analyses.

OSHA is also extending the deadline to submit notices of intention to appear at its informal public hearings by an additional 30 days, from Nov. 12, 2013, to Dec. 12, 2013. Public hearings are scheduled to begin on March 18, 2014. The duration of the hearings will be determined by the number of parties who request to appear. The hearings are expected to continue for several weeks.

The notice of proposed rulemaking was published in the Federal Register on Sept. 12, 2013. The proposed rule was made available to the public on OSHA's website Aug. 23, 2013.

"We strongly encourage the public to assist in the process of developing a final rule by submitting written comments and participating in public hearings," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. "We especially hope to hear from employers, workers and public health professionals who have experience in successfully protecting workers from silica-related diseases. We are extending the comment period to ensure we hear from all stakeholders who wish to participate."
The extended comment period and public hearings will be followed with a post-hearing comment period. Members of the public who filed a timely written notice of intention to appear will be able to submit post-hearing comments to the docket.

Additional information on the proposed rule, including five fact sheets and procedures for submitting written comments and participating in public hearings, is available at Members of the public may comment on the proposal by visiting

Silica exposure an increased risk for lung cancer?

A newly published study of a large population of Chinese tin and pottery workers has found that exposure to airborne silica dust is associated with a significant increase in the risk of developing lung cancer. The study, printed in the American Journal of Epidemiology, measured cumulative silica exposure in a group of more than 30,000 workers over a 44-year period. These findings, which confirm that silica is a human carcinogen, are consistent with the preliminary risk assessment in OSHA's new proposed rule to protect workers from occupational exposure to crystalline silica, and have important implications for public health. Read more about the AJOE study here.

OSHA invites and strongly encourages the public to participate in the process of developing a final silica rule through written comments and participation in public hearings. You may read the notice of proposed rulemaking, by visiting

Fall Protection - walking/working along bridge decks

September 3, 2013

Dear Mr. F****:

Thank you for your letter dated April 5, 2013 to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). In your letter you discussed safe guarding for employees required to work next to finished concrete barriers commonly used in highway construction. Most of these barriers are only 32 inches high. Employees could be exposed to falls of 6 feet or more when performing ancillary tasks, such as painting or removal of concrete curing material. You stated that the vast majority of Department of Transportation Contracts through the Federal Highway Administration have contract specifications that do not permit the use of systems such as anchorages for a personal fall protection system if there is a need to penetrate the surface of decks or barrier walls. While it's an accepted practice to use job-fabricated wooden built-up rail systems, you point out that this could entail tens of thousands of circular saw cuts. You contend that exposure to cuts and ergonomic considerations of these systems create greater hazards to employees than that of a fall exposures. Given your scenario we paraphrased above, you asked the following question:
Would the use of high visibility warning stripes placed on the decking during construction and subsequent use of permanent pavement markings in conjunction with training and enforcement meet the requirements for protection of workers having to walk and/or travel along decks between the offset markings when the edges are protected with a finished 32 inch high barrier wall?

No. Using a 32" high concrete barrier to serve as a guardrail to protect employees doesn't comply with minimum top edge requirement of the guardrail system to be 42 inches high plus or minus 3 inches.

The fabricated plywood saddle system described in your letter is one of many systems that can be used. On May 10, 2013, we briefly discussed alternatives such as c-clamp guardrail systems that are easily transportable and available for rent. We also discussed OSHA's alternative uses of warning line systems meeting the requirements defined in 29 CFR 1926.502(f)(2) providing it's use maintains a "no entry" 15 foot setback from an edge or hole 6 feet or more above a lower level. You indicated that your employees would need to work within the 15 foot restriction and thus a warning line system would be infeasible. See the attached Letter of Interpretation. This letter can also be found on OSHA's website at the following link:
Thank you for your interest on occupational safety and health. We hope you find this information helpful. OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards, and regulations. Our interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. Note that our enforcement guidance may be affected by changes to OSHA rules. Also, from time to time we update our guidance in response to new information. To keep apprised of such development, you can consult OSHA's website at If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact the Directorate of Construction at 202 693-2020.

Safety Pays, but Falls Cost

OSHA’s Fall Prevention Campaign promotes ‘Planning,’ ‘Providing’ and ‘training’ to reduce the number one cause of death in construction

By Jim Maddux, director, OSHA Directorate of Construction

Falls account for one third of all work-related deaths in the construction industry. In 2010, there were 264 fall fatalities (255 falls to lower level) out of 774 total fatalities in construction. Of those deaths from falls, 90 were from roofs, 68 from ladders and 37 from scaffolds.

Many of the workers who are killed and injured on the job are temporary workers who perform the most dangerous jobs and often have limited English proficiency, and who don’t always get the training and equipment they need to do their jobs safely. As Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels has said, “All workers have the right to go home safe and sound at the end of the day, whether they’ve been on the job one day or 25 years.”

Worker injuries, illnesses and deaths don’t just hurt workers, families, co-workers and communities. They also take a great toll on our economy. Our nation’s largest provider of workers compensation data — the National Council on Compensation Insurance — found that from 2005 to 2007, 38 states reported that falls from elevations cost insured roofers $54 million per year. The average cost to an employer when a roofer falls from an elevation is about $106,000 per injured roofer – that’s enough to put a small roofing company
out of business.

OSHA campaigns for fall prevention

OSHA has partnered with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA) - Construction Sector on this nationwide outreach campaign to raise awareness among workers and employers about common fall hazards in construction, and how falls can be prevented and lives can be saved. Here’s how:
PLAN ahead to get the job done safely - When working at height, employers must plan projects to ensure the job is done safely. Begin by doing a risk assessment. This involves taking a close look at the jobsite, potential hazards and how they relate to the work being done. It’s important to decide how the job will be done, what tasks will be involved, and whatsafety equipment will be needed to complete each task.

When estimating the cost of a job, employers should include safety equipment, and plan to have all the necessary equipment and tools available at the construction site. Think about all of the different fall hazards, and then plan and select fall protection suitable to that work, such as personal fall arrest systems (PFAS).

PROVIDE the right equipment - Workers who are six feet or more above lower levels are at risk for serious injury or death if they should fall. To protect them, employers must provide fall protection and the right equipment for the job whether it’s powered lifts, or scaffolds or ladders.

If workers use personal fall arrest systems (PFAS), provide a harness for each worker who needs to tie off to the anchor. Make sure the PFAS fits, and regularly inspect all fall protection equipment to ensure it’s still in good condition and safe to use.

TRAIN everyone to use the equipment safely - Falls can be prevented when workers understand proper set-up and safe use of equipment, so they need training on the specific equipment they will use to complete the job. Employers must train workers in hazard recognition and in the care and safe use of lift equipment and fall protection systems.

OSHA offers numerous materials and resources that employers can use during toolbox talks to train workers on safe practices to avoid falls in construction. Falls can be prevented and lives can be saved through three simple steps: Plan, Provide and Train.

Top 10 OSHA Violations 2013 Released

At this year's National Safety Council Congress and Expo in Chicago, OSHA released its Top 10 OSHA Violations for fiscal year 2013 (October 1, 2012 through September 30, 2013).

  1. Fall Protection (29 CFR 1926.501
  2. Hazard Communication (29 CFR 1910.1200)
  3. Scaffolding (29 CFR 1926.451)
  4. Respiratory Protection (29 CFR 1910.134)
  5. Electrical - Wiring Methods (29 CFR 1910.305)
  6. Powered Industrial Trucks (29 CFR 1910.178)
  7. Ladders (29 CFR 1926.1053
  8. Control of Hazardous Energy - Lockout/Tagout (29 CFR 1910.147)
  9. Electrical - General (29 CFR 1910.303)
  10. Machine Guarding (29 CFR 1910.212)