Masons have been following the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's proposed ruling (announced in 2013) limiting worker exposure to respirable crystalline silica dust for nearly two years. OSHA expects to finish analyzing comments from silica proposal hearings by summer, and now a key industry organization reports that the proposal could have some serious cost consequences.

There are actually two proposals, one covering general industry and maritime, and one covering specifically construction and according to OSHA:

... the proposed rule would result in saving nearly 700 lives per year and prevent 1,600 new cases of silicosis annually ...The proposed rule includes a new exposure limit for respirable crystalline silica and details widely used methods for controlling worker exposure, conducting medical surveillance, training workers about silica-related hazards and recordkeeping measures.

A recent report from the Construction Industry Safety Coalition (CISC) claims the proposed silica standards for the U.S. construction industry will cost the industry $5 billion per year. That's $4.5 billion more than OSHA’s estimates.

According to a National Association of Home Builders' statement:

 The cost and impact analysis from OSHA reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of the construction industry. The OSHA analysis included major errors and omissions that account for the large discrepancies with the CISC report. The CISC report estimates that about 80% of the cost ($3.9 billion/year) will be direct compliance expenditures by the industry such as additional equipment, labor and record-keeping costs. The remaining 20% of the cost ($1.05 billion/year) will come in the form of increased prices that the industry will have to pay for construction

materials and building products such as concrete block, glass, roofing shingles and more. OSHA failed to take into account these additional costs to the construction industry that will result from the proposed standard, which will then be passed down to customers in the form of higher prices.

The statement goes on to outline how the proposed rule could also translate to serious job losses, as many as 80,000 positions.

What's your take? Consider this MCAA report and expert commentary, and share your thoughts in the comment section below.