Guest Blog: Things That Suck

By Jessica McNaughton

A lot of companies don’t like OSHA, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration. They make companies ensure that their employees are safe, which is supposed to be a good thing. They require a lot of documentation and, sometimes, costly equipment to ensure safety. But they are trying to save lives, which again, is a good thing.

How does this pertain to the countertop and surfacing industries? Recently OSHA set new limits for silica dust exposure, which have a big impact on the manufacturing and construction industries. After all, granite and quartz are comprised mainly of silica, which when inhaled, can cause lung disease, COPD, silicosis and other health issues.

How can these new requirements be met? Use systems that suck – literally. Ventilation systems suck the dust out of the air and recover it rather than have it circulate through the facility and into the workers’ respiratory tracts and lungs. If you don’t want to implement these systems, you must provide respiratory protection to the workers.

There has been backlash over this new regulation – limiting exposure to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air over eight hours – because it will cost companies to add this new equipment. And the companies don’t want to spend that money. And that REALLY sucks, because your employees are your biggest asset and should be considered paramount to the success of your business. If they aren’t, you should probably lock up shop anyhow. Then you won’t need to meet this “costly” requirement.

And what sucks even more is the fact that the villages where stone and quartz are mined, typically in China and India, have virtually NO regulations on silica dust exposure, and the rates of lung disease in these mining towns is incredibly high.

Instead of complaining about “costly” regulations that keep people safe, maybe consider making better decisions about what materials we are demanding in the U.S. market in the first place.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The opinions expressed in guest editorials are those of the author’s and do not necessarily (although in some cases may) represent the views of the publisher, editor or owner of this website. Much of the dissent over the new OSHA rule for airborne crystalline silica exposure is about the fact that many business owners believe that reducing the limit from 250 ug/m3 (100 ug/m3 in Calif., Ore. and Wash.) over eight hours to 50 ug/m3 does little to nothing in preventing silicosis, cancer and other medical complications. However, after reviewing studies conducted or gathered by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the agency has concluded that the new rule will save more than 600 lives per year. On the other side of the coin, the Cato Institute and others question this assessment, pointing out that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that only about 100 deaths are caused by silicosis annually.

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