Concrete Products

APR 2014

Concrete Products covers the issues that attract producers of ready mixed and manufactured concrete focusing on equipment and material technology, market development and management topics.

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6 • April 2014 GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS REGULATIONS Concrete, aggregate and cement interests are well represented in par- ties challenging the rationale, compliance costs and burdens—along with a timeline from announcement (August 28) to close of a four- month public comment period (February 11)—tied to the Occupa- tional Safety & Health Administration's Notice of Proposed Rulemak- ing (NPRM) for Occupational Exposure to Respirable Crystalline Silica. Over a public comment period twice extended from an initial 45-day target, OSHA received nearly 3,000-plus responses to its pro- posed reduction of permissible exposure limits (PEL) for quartz from current General Industry and Construction thresholds 100 and 250 micrograms per cubic meter of air (µg/m 3 ) expressed in eight-hour weighted averages, respectively to a uniform 50 µg/m 3 . Acknowledging support for a silica exposure standard to protect workers, but questioning the need for a rule change, the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association tells OSHA: "Current data shows regulations in place have worked extremely well at protecting workers in the ready mixed concrete industry. The continued compliance with and enforce- ment of current silica regulations, engineering controls, and proper protective equipment use, properly and effectively limit worker silica exposure and result in downward trends of U.S. silicosis rates." On behalf of NRMCA member producer, Mississippi-based MMC Materials, David Bosarge, vice president–Safety & Environmental, cites his company's annual quantitative industrial hygiene eval- uation of yardmen, drivers and plant operators. "Over the past 10 years, employees who were monitored for their exposure to respirable silica (as quartz) and respirable particulate had time weighted average exposures that were determined to be below the laboratory's level of quantifcation, and thus the corresponding OSHA PEL," he affrms. The proposed rule would present precast producers signifcant challenges in terms of reducing the potential exposure to an al- most nonexistent level, increasing the specifcations on when res- pirators are required, and accurately measuring a new respirable silica concentration threshold with any level of certainty based on technology currently available in the feld and at laboratories throughout U.S., contends National Precast Concrete Association in its comments to OSHA. "While the safety and health of workers in the precast concrete industry is of the foremost concern, there is also a practical com- ponent to actually being able to technically comply with [the new] PEL through the application of additional engineering controls in a real world scenario of a concrete manufacturing plant," explains NPCA Director of Communications Bob Whitmore. "There is also an economic component in the additional monitoring equipment, res- pirator usage, record keeping, hazard communication and medical surveillance required to get from the current [to proposed] PEL … We believe the common sense approach would be to retain the cur- rent PEL and continue to strongly advocate for compliance with this important environmental standard that has saved thousands of lives since it was frst implemented more than four decades ago." BLOCK & PAVER PERSPECTIVE Representative of the National Concrete Masonry Association and peer operators, Basalite Concrete Products' (Selma, Calif.) Plant Manager Randy Vita affirms his company's commitment to employee health and safety, adding, "This rule as proposed has the potential to have significant detrimental impacts on our company and the concrete products industry, while providing no commensurate improvement to [their] health and well being … Silicosis cases are steadily decreasing already under the current [PEL] and the need for the proposed chang- es has not been adequately justified. Data used as rationalization for the rule appear to be considerably outdated. OSHA greatly underesti- mates the costs for companies like mine to comply with the proposed changes … We are equally concerned about the impact of this rule on our customers." "I have been in this industry for over 40 years and am not per- sonally aware of a single case of a worker contracting silicosis due to exposure in a plant or jobsite," comments Michael Finch, president of Lemon Grove, Calif.-based RCP Block & Brick Inc. "I question the claim that exposure in our facilities or jobsites present a level of risk that would warrant the cost and liabilities associated with the rulings being applied to our industry." With much overlap among its member producers' operations and downstream customer activities and those of NCMA's, the Interlock- ing Concrete Pavement Institute weighs in with OSHA as well: "ICPI's view is that the entire proposed regulation presents severe faws regarding inaccurate cost projections and incomplete consideration of all the cost impacts that occur in real-world manufacturing and construction application. ICPI suggests a complete revision of the proposed regulation on this point alone," comments Executive Di- rector Charles McGrath. Among OSHA projections ICPI questions are total ancillary costs, $22 million, for concrete product operations of all sizes comply- ing with the revised PEL. Concrete producer trade groups and the American Chemistry Council Silica Panel, McGrath notes, peg the total ancillary costs for manufactured-concrete producers at $338 million. OSHA additionally underestimates cost impacts on construc- tion industry segments downstream of concrete paving stone and segmental retaining wall unit production. An ICPI consultant fnds higher multiples of actual cost impacts, versus agency estimates, on the key construction sectors of residential building (8X OSHA cost impact estimates); nonresidential building (5X); highway, street and bridge construction (4X); and, foundation, structure and building exterior contractors (4X). "The inadequately short comment period complicates industry efforts to complete analyses," McGrath argues. "If the early data are correct, OSHA needs to completely revise its cost projections to more accurately refect the impact on the [interlocking concrete pavement] industry and the concrete products manufacturing and construction industry as a whole." TEMPLATE FOR MSHA One of the most thorough cases challenging OSHA's Notice of Pro- posed Rulemaking for Crystalline Silica is from a group representing producers not immediately affected by a change in the permissible exposure limit threshold: National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association. "Many of our vertically integrated company members incorporate aggregates into concrete using portland cement or asphalt cement. OS- HA's proposal—which is estimated to cost billions of dollars and thou- sands of jobs annually—thus directly impacts many of our members' operations and virtually all of their customers' operations," notes NSSGA President Michael Johnson, opening 30 pages of comments. "However, the majority of aggregates facilities are regulated by the Mine Safety and Health Administration [whose] intent to initiate silica rulemaking PRODUCERS, ASSOCIATIONS IMPLORE OSHA TO RECONSIDER PROPOSED SILICA RULE Concrete Products April 2014.indd 6 4/1/2014 11:38:25 AM

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