LHSFNA Joins OSHA Advisory Committee

Ten years after the Fund was last represented on OSHA’s Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health (AACSH), Scott Schneider, LHSFNA’s Director of Occupational Safety and Health, has been named to the committee.

“Though the committee is advisory in nature,” says Schneider, “the committee must review all proposed OSHA construction rules before they are published for comment.”  Thus, Schneider expects to keep tabs on upcoming rules that could affect Laborers and LIUNA signatory contractors.

The AACSH committee has 15 members representing labor, management and other segments of the interested public.  It meets, usually in Washington, on an irregular schedule.  More information about the committee is available from OSHA.

OSHA’s New Silica Exposure Rule

Like so many others in and around the construction industry, the LSHFNA Occupational Safety and Health Division awaits publication of OSHA’s long-anticipated proposed silica standard. Work on the standard began during the Clinton administration and has progressed slowly.

In November, OSHA released its draft for initial review by the Small Business Administration. The draft will be discussed and revised, and a proposed standard likely will be published in 2004.

Way back in 1942, Department of Labor Secretary Francis Perkins produced a film to warn miners and construction workers about silica, one the most common and most dangerous materials in construction. Much later, an exposure limit was adopted, but that standard has been replaced by more exact and easier-to-use method. In the 1970s, NIOSH recommended a proposed standard, but it was never adopted.

Generally, an OSHA standard is more than just an exposure limit. A standard also lists required and prohibited work practices as well as training, medical and protective equipment requirements.

Once the proposed standard is published, a process of comment, modification and legal challenge occurs. If all goes smoothly, a new standard could be in place in 2006.

NIOSH and Refractory Ceramic Fibers

Refractory ceramic fibers (RCFs) are a high temperature insulation material that often is manufactured in sheets and then cut for particular applications. During the cutting and clean-up processes, the fibers can become airborne and inhaled. Some studies indicate that RCFs cause cancer.

Reacting to these studies, NIOSH convened a meeting of RCF fabricators and health professionals, including the LHSFNA, to look into ways to reduce exposures.

“Our recommendation,” says LHSFNA OSH Division Director Scott Schneider, “is that we all agree on a goal of a 90 percent reduction in exposure over the next five years. Then, we can work toward that goal in a constructive and cooperative way.” However, further discussion will be required before a unified approach is adopted.

LIUNA represents workers at two companies that fabricate RCF insulation and at another company where workers were exposed during boiler renovation work.

Diesel Fuel Exposure

In response to the proposed Rulemaking for Control of Emissions of Air Pollution from Nonroad Diesel Engines and Fuel, LHSFNA Senior Safety and Health Specialist Walter Jones submitted comments to the Environmental Protection Agency last fall.

In his comments, Jones noted that Laborers work in and around a variety of diesel equipment including skid steer loaders, forklifts, aerial lifts, mini-excavators, front-end loaders and backhoes.

Jones wrote, “(D)iesel emissions are a very complex mixture of gases and particulates…approximately 9,000 chemical compounds. Many of these compounds are irritating to the eyes, skin and upper respiratory system…Cancer-causing chemicals in the diesel exhaust …easily penetrate and deposit deep in the lungs.” He then cited a 1988 NIOSH recommendation that diesel exhaust be regarded as “a potential carcinogen.”

Jones stated the Fund’s position that there is NO SAFE EXPOSURE LEVEL and supported the EPA’s decision to establish controls on these emissions. He also urged the agency to develop, support and promote voluntary adoption of retrofit systems for existing equipment.

Healthy Workforce Panel

In December, LHSFNA OSH Division Director Scott Schneider participated in a workshop organized by NIOSH to look into its role in promoting a healthy American workforce – both on and off the job. NIOSH recognizes that health concerns at work extend to home and family and vice versa.

[Steve Clark]