Portland was the location of the Associated General Contractors (AGC) of America national Safety & Health Committee Meeting held July 16-18, 2014, and I was fortunate to be asked to present information about the toxicology of crystalline silica at one of their sessions. The AGC is dedicated to construction safety and health and plays an active role in improving safety and health through participation in the development of regulatory and legislative activity at both the national and local level as well as assisting in the development and creation of new safety training programs and products. Members attended this year’s meeting from all across the nation.
Among the highlights of the meeting was a presentation by Dr. John Gambatese from the Oregon State University School of Civil and Construction Engineering titled From Research to Practice: A Collaborative Approach to Construction Safety. Oregon OSHA administrator Michael Wood gave a particularly effective address on construction safety from the OSHA perspective. I participated in a panel discussion on the Federal OSHA’s proposed new silica standard. OSHA is considering whether to reduce the crystalline silica exposure standard in order to reduce the incidence and risk for silicosis and associated occupational diseases. I, along with Oregon AGC chapter member Alden Strealy and Oregon OSHA’s Chris Ottoson, presented information on the toxicology of silica (presented by Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Science’s Dr. Fred Berman), silica prevalence and exposure prevention (presented by Alden Strealy) and different aspects of the proposed rule changes (presented by Chris Ottoson). Discussion and questions following the panel presentation demonstrated significant concern about the feasibility of implementing the proposed changes. For example: how difficult would it be to accurately measure crystalline silica under the myriad conditions that exist at construction sites? Will the proposed rules place an unreasonable burden on small construction businesses? Or, Will the new standard actually reduce the incidence of disease caused by crystalline silica? Hopefully, answers to these and other questions regarding the proposed changes to the silica standard will be made clear as Federal OSHA advances through its rules process. We would like to thank the AGC of Oregon for asking us to contribute to their efforts and for allowing us the use of their facilities in Wilsonville for safety-related meetings, such as planning for the upcoming GOSH conference.
Here is a link to information on silica from our web resource page.