<<Stakeholder Meetings

Disclaimer: This summary consists of informal notes compiled by OSHA notetakers at the designated stakeholder meeting. They are not verbatim records and are intended merely to summarize the major points raised at the meeting. All issues related to a proposed rule for silica are still being discussed within the Agency and with interested stakeholders; no final decision on any issue has been reached.

SESSION 3 - September 16, 1999
8:30 a.m.-12:00 p.m.


The format of the stakeholder sessions followed the questions in a stakeholder document that is also available on the Web page. There were four general areas of discussion: scope, controlling exposures to crystalline silica, monitoring and sampling, and health screening and surveillance.


The OSHA panel opened the conversation about silica regulation by explaining that, according to the Agency's current thinking, the proposed standard would apply to the general, construction, and maritime industries, but not agriculture. The panel welcomed any comments, especially issues connected with new industries, construction sectors, and multiple forms of silica, including encapsulated materials.

A sheet metal air and conditioning stakeholder pointed out that the construction industry is very different from general industry, and stated:
  • It would be difficult to understand and apply a standard with both general industry requirements and construction requirements "tiered" in.
  • OSHA's Directorate of Construction should be involved.
  • Due to intermittent exposures found in construction, he preferred a STEL (short-term exposure limit) of 15 or 30 minutes, rather than an 8-hour PEL (permissible) exposure limit).
  • The rulemaking process will be slowed by including construction and maritime issues with general industry.

The OSHA panel replied that a staff member from the Directorate of Construction is already a participating member of the rule-making team creating the standard. The Agency does not intend to develop separate rules because historically, separate rulemakings mean that the employees in industries that are out-of-scope in the first rulemaking may be unprotected for ten years or longer. For example, the Agency went through rulemaking on noise in general industry in the 1980s, but still has not done so for the construction industry. The health issues are similar, if not the same, for all affected industries, but separate feasibility analysis and determinations will be made for each affected industry.

A stakeholder from the American Society of Safety Engineers stated that one key issue is determining who has control over the hazards in construction--the general contractor, other contractors, or the subcontractors? Also, he said, training is already covered under the HAZCOM (Hazard Communication) standard; a new requirement is not needed, in his opinion.

A granite industry stakeholder asked if there would be one PEL for all three forms of crystalline silica, and stated:
  • Employees in his industry were exposed to quartz.
  • The industry is comprised primarily of small businesses.
  • The current PEL works.

The OSHA panel responded that, at this time, one PEL is being considered for all types of silica, and also, some published reports on risk indicate that a lower PEL may be necessary to protect worker health.

A granite company stakeholder stated that small businesses in the granite industry are doing fine with the current protection; he is not sure a lower PEL is needed.

The OSHA panel replied that information gathered to date shows that deaths are occurring from acute and chronic silicosis. The Agency needs to ascertain whether or not there is a significant risk of material impairment and then determine if a reduction of the PEL is feasible. Historically, OSHA PELs are constrained by feasibility.

A union stakeholder said there ought to be some separate consideration for the construction industry because:
  • The exposures are intermittent and work sites continually change. Employers and employees are very mobile.
  • Highway construction has tightly compressed time schedules, with workers actually working in very close proximity.
  • There is very little training by contractors in the safe handling of silica.

He added:
  • Architects and engineers need to be involved in the rulemaking as well.
  • The Federal Highway Administration needs to be involved
  • The concept of "controlled areas" is a way of protecting employees, especially bystanders or assistants, from high exposure.

A steel castings (foundry) stakeholder asked what criteria OSHA would use to justify a 25-50 percent reduction in the PEL. He also asked what the initial risk assessment findings were.

The OSHA panel answered that the Agency must demonstrate, based on 45 years of exposure, a significant risk (risk within the guidance provided by the Supreme Court) of silicosis, for example, when compared to unexposed individuals. Also, technological and economic feasibility are examined. Any previous risk assessments are reviewed and evaluated when making this determination.

A stakeholder from the American Association of Occupational Health Nursing (AAOHN) stated that employees do not use respirators now, and management does not enforce wearing respirators. She inquired about the increased risk from non-compliance. AAOHN has written training programs, including provisions for health screening. She supported including the training requirements in a standard.

A concrete industry stakeholder said the rule should be clearly written and easy to understand, and the definitions of terms should be clear. He added:
  • Small businesses have difficulty with complicated rules.
  • The concrete industry, with its many small businesses, needs specific directions as to what employers are required to do for dusty operations, such as chipping concrete. The respirator standard, for example, is confusing to the industry.

A sheet metal construction stakeholder stated that the SENSOR data show 20 or 30 new silicosis cases a year. Drills that collect dust in mining are overwhelmed by dust. A major problem is maintenance of equipment and controls; the maintenance issue needs to be addressed in a proposal.

OSHA replied that in order to improve equipment, the Agency first needs to know what equipment is being used, and then ascertain how it could be improved.

A shipbuilding stakeholder concerned with blasting and paint removal reported that there was a National Shipbuilding program at EPA in Research Triangle Park. Scientists are investigating the PM10 (a reference to EPA's proposed regulation for airborne dust) issue and levels of silica in shipyards. He addressed the problem of compliance by saying:
  • How do you get contractors to enforce a standard, and to use the appropriate equipment?
  • The threat of a lawsuit is a motivator. Settlements cost industry money; so some companies discontinue their silica operations.
  • Threats of suits can also get contractors to use equipment properly.
  • The insurance industry should be involved in these sessions (as stakeholders).
  • The insurance companies should charge high premiums for those who do not comply.

The OSHA panel responded that they have had insurance stakeholders at previous meetings and would continue to invite industry representatives to its meetings.

A stone cutting stakeholder asked these questions:
  • Is the evidence (showing the effects of silica exposure) that has been gathered by OSHA thus far based on lab data, animal studies, or monitoring data?
  • Is OSHA finding illness where there is strict compliance with the current standard?
  • Has OSHA looked at the standard in Toronto where the PEL is double OSHA's? What are the illness rates there?

The OSHA panel responded:
  • The data the Agency is looking at are based on human studies.
  • To effectively estimate risk, large cohorts are needed. Studies involving small groups of employers may not see a case of silicosis; however, that doesn't mean that their employees are not at substantial risk.
  • The Agency has not yet determined what the exposure levels of the employees in the studies are.
  • However, the Agency derives dose-response estimates from studies with employees at higher exposure levels, but within observed ranges. There are standard scientific methods for estimating risk in these cases, and the Agency has traditionally relied upon them.

A bentonite stakeholder reported that opal is sometimes confused with, or misidentified as, crystalline silica. He said:
  • Opal mimics some characteristics of cristobalite and X-ray diffraction patterns of other forms of silica.
  • OSHA's Salt Lake City Technical Center is aware of the problem and their procedures work properly.
  • The NIOSH 7601 method (an analytical method for silica analysis) needs to be carefully carried out for accurate results.
  • Analytical problems will be more pronounced if the PEL is reduced.

The OSHA panel responded that current sampling methods are compatible with the newer type of cyclones. One improvement would be to collect larger amounts of particulate for analysis with a new cyclone. OSHA recognizes that the opal and cristobalite distinction is a problem. OSHA welcomes guidance from other labs in dealing with the issue.

A sheet metal stakeholder stated if silica death rates are falling (as reported in CDC's World Report), contractors must be doing something right. OSHA needs to find such contractors, include them in its risk assessment, and not rely on animal studies alone.

The OSHA panel replied that the reported risks are, in fact, based on human studies; the animal and in vitro studies would be used as supporting material for the human studies. The panel pointed out that it must follow the requirements of the OSH Act in how it approaches determining if a "significant risk" exists.

A stakeholder from the American Society of Safety Engineers expressed concern that OSHA might be basing its PEL on the high exposures that existed forty or fifty years ago. Furthermore, he said, smoking and exposures to other substances, such as asbestos or diesel exhaust rather than silica, could have caused the excess cases of lung cancer that we see today. For example, he mentioned a study in which 50 out of 52 silica workers who had developed lung cancer were smokers. He also inquired as to when the risk assessment draft, which is to be peer reviewed, would be placed in the docket.

The OSHA panel answered that the risk assessment is subject to a great deal of scrutiny, and it will be peer reviewed before the proposal is published. All material the Agency relies on is placed in the docket at the time the proposal moves forward.

A NIOSH representative explained that their scientists observe the whole spectrum of exposures in their research and other publication, not just overexposures. And, yes, NIOSH is taking into consideration confounding factors, such as smoking.

A Chemical Manufacturers' Association (CMA) stakeholder stated the industries in compliance are not contributing new SENSOR cases. She expressed concern that reliance on epidemiological studies may have many confounders of risk.

A steel casting stakeholder asked if OSHA was compiling adequate data from sites where there has been compliance with the current PEL.

The OSHA panel said that it has a statutory responsibility to use the best available evidence, and requested that stakeholders supply data if they have it.

An stakeholder in electrical work said that there is a need for a standard. By the time workers find out about their exposures, they already have silicosis.


The OSHA panel asked the stakeholder group about methods of compliance, including hygiene practices and regulated areas, and also for feedback on exposure assessment strategies. OSHA asked:
  • Who performs silica exposure monitoring samples?
  • How often should monitoring be performed?
  • What are the necessary qualifications of persons who perform or direct exposure monitoring?
  • Should an action level provision be included in the rule?
  • What are current practices regarding employee health screening?
  • Are chest X rays and a work history questionnaire sufficient health screening tools?
  • How are employees encouraged to participate in health screening?
  • Should OSHA include a provision allowing employees to obtain a second medical opinion?

A union stakeholder observed that his company refuses to pay for medical testing related to silicosis. The worker has to pay.

A minerals industry stakeholder asked if OSHA would make any distinction for bulk samples of large particle sizes? Could there be a labeling allowance for non-respirable particle size? His industry moves large quantities of materials with trace amounts of silica; however, the materials are very coarse.

The OSHA panel explained that the concern is respirable dust in the air, not in the bulk material. OSHA is usually concerned with bulk samples only with respect to analytical issues. Regarding bulk products, there is no guarantee how silica will be handled in the workplace. Even if there is no respirable silica in the product, labeling is needed to alert users who may crush or pulverize the large particles, resulting in respirable silica exposure.

A stakeholder from a contracting employer stated that in abrasive blasting operations, engineering controls cannot solve all the problems. He explained:
  • Substitute blasting media, wet methods, etc., may not control respirable silica levels entirely. Therefore, other means have to be relied upon.
  • The industry is used to general controls like showers, respiratory protection, and containment. Improvements have successfully reduced exposures to other substances-- lead, for example--but these improvements are expensive.
  • The industry is worried about making changes to reduce silica exposures, and it does not have enough data to know that the changes will be effective.
  • Most alternatives to silica abrasives have health problems of their own, for example, heavy metals. OSHA needs to consider the limitations of substitutes in its development of a standard.
  • OSHA should observe European countries that have reduced silica in abrasives (to one percent or less of the medium) and study those health consequences. A huge issue for the construction industry will be communicating the standard to small employers.

The stakeholder concluded by saying that, in his experience, the information does not reach the smallest contractors.

NIOSH mentioned that there was a Web site for a Michigan State University training course on abrasive blasting. Recent NIOSH research found that some substitutes are more toxic than silica, and some are less toxic.

A stakeholder from the American Society of Safety Engineers suggested that the Agency consider the experience of MSHA's Denver Laboratory, where a lower PEL increased the potential for analytic error. He suggested the following:
  • Basing enforcement and compliance on multiple samples to ensure accuracy and fairness.
  • Reliance on personal samples rather than area samples.
  • Collecting side-by-side samples, one on each lapel, because exposures could differ for each.

He acknowledged:
  • Getting qualified personnel to perform assessment and sampling is a problem. Today, one often cannot get an industrial hygienist into every workplace. There will be an great need for training, especially for people who perform exposure assessment and monitoring.

He further observed:
  • MSHA has a cooperative program for training people to collect samples.
  • An action level of 25 micrograms per cubic meter, for example, would be very difficult to measure due to problems of sensitivity at lower levels. Therefore the action level may not be a very good trigger for other parts of the standard, such as surveillance (employee health screening).
  • That it would be inappropriate to use a single X ray for a determination of silicosis, because many other things trigger, mimic, or cause positive, yet erroneous, X ray readings. MSHA now uses 2 out of 3 X rays to identify a case of silicosis.
  • The employee should have a medical exam as well.
  • An interpretation by a B reader resulting in an ILO designation of 1/0 should not be used as the sole determinant of silicosis. Pneumonia, and other previous illnesses, could interfere with the reading.
  • Medical removal may not be feasible in construction because silica is everywhere. The best one can do is to transfer the employee to tasks where silica exposures are lower.

The OSHA panel responded that the Agency will evaluate round robin lab testing as well as the PAT (Proficiency Analytical Testing) program results to determine the limitations of available exposure monitoring methods. The Agency is considering whether or not to require B-readers to evaluate X rays; no decisions have been made at this time.

An occupational health nursing stakeholder expressed her views and concerns:
  • B readers are necessary for health screening and surveillance and do not have to be physicians.
  • Employees do not want to participate in screening because they worry about being identified with a positive initial diagnosis and losing their jobs as a consequence.

She was concerned about the reporting procedures to NIOSH, and asked:
  • Who is liable for a case of silicosis when the worker had several jobs in which he could have been exposed?
  • Which employer's Workers' Compensation coverage will pay under those circumstances?

The OSHA panel responded that the Agency has been wrestling with these issues. The standard will not address Workers' Compensation, but the Agency is collecting information on the Workers' Compensation system and how it would interact with MRP for silicosis.

A union stakeholder said:
  • Asking workers to participate in health screening makes workers balance the risk to their health against the risk of losing their jobs.
  • His experience with lead exposure indicated that workers get laid off with no compensation when medical testing reveals a problem. The employer does not convey information about the lead levels of these workers. There is no testing when a job is over.
  • Medical removal can end a construction worker's career.
  • Engineering controls are the choice of last resort in construction. This is not because employers are bad, but because heavy equipment has a long life expectancy and is very expensive.
  • Further, much of the equipment in use today may not have operator cabs or other controls and might not be configured to accept a retrofit.

He asked: How would OSHA phase in controls for heavy equipment?

A granite industry stakeholder stated that exposures are well below the current PEL in this industry, but the industry doesn't have a way to further reduce exposures. He said:
  • Only ten percent of the employees currently wear respirators, but a reduction in the PEL could require 95 percent of the workforce to wear respirators.
  • His company does its own sampling. Sampling by OSHA's State representatives or Workers' Compensation insurance carrier finds approximately 80 percent of employees' exposures below the PEL.
  • Employees do know the risks of silicosis. Workers do not always take precautions or maintain good work practices.
  • No sampling procedure is uniform among employers. There are a lot of capable people, but very few are qualified. Requiring a qualified person to collect samples will add to the burden.
  • The current PEL is working for the industry, and an action level will not help much. Most employers cannot currently control exposures to 50 micrograms per cubic meter (50 ug/m3) now; so an action level or a lower PEL would be impossible to achieve.
  • Health screening is not routine. Where does one get screening done? The state of Vermont performed screening until the late 1970s and early 1980s, but has stopped. In small business, it is impossible to protect people who move from job to job.
  • Most of the employers in Vermont have fewer than 20 employees. In today's economy it's hard to replace workers. Workers don't want a job where they have to wear a respirator.
  • Testing should never stop when a life is on the line. Testing every worker does not seem necessary, however.
  • The industry does not have problems with equipment maintenance.

A steel casting stakeholder asked what approach OSHA would take when evaluating engineering controls. His company is using the ACGIH ventilation guide for designing their engineering controls. The stakeholder explained that his company uses respirators and has ventilation, but still sometimes has readings at the PEL. Also, he said it is not feasible to capture the particles completely with large castings. In some operations they have good LEV (local exhaust ventilation) but still must use respirators. He asked: If the PEL were lowered, would there be less severe requirements for engineering controls?

A stakeholder for occupational health nursing requested that OSHA require a "qualified" person to conduct health screening instead of a "competent" person. She stated that the competent person does not always know the actual exposures, and she further recommended that OSHA use Appendix C--the medical questionnaire--in the respirator standard for silica exposures. Oversight of the program is also important in detecting diseases. Tracking and qualified persons are needed when determining who is at risk and who is not.

A construction equipment stakeholder pointed out that children are exposed to silica in sand boxes. He continued, saying: Industry has been installing cabs and controls on heavy equipment, such as drilling rigs, for years. Most quarry equipment has them and they work well. Cutting and drilling equipment are all available with water controls. The foundry fatality rate is going down, and automation has helped. Training needs to be part of the standard and must be appropriate to employees' educational level. OSHA's requirements would make it easier for the industry to control contractors' performance.

A chemical manufacturing stakeholder stated that everything is controlled in the plant and that monitoring is currently performed. Contractors can work in the plants and not be exposed. However, the challenge is at small sites. It is difficult to find workers and difficult to identify the hazards they deal with. Construction contractors do pose a challenge in the plant with regard to controlling exposure. A new silica standard will require a good outreach program. He expressed concern about the potential burden of monitoring, sampling, and the analytical methods used.

A representative from stone manufacturing said that MSHA and State Plan states may have exposure data. He asked if OSHA plans to coordinate with MSHA on Hazard Communication requirements. Will the labeling threshold be one percent? He noted that MSHA regulates the manufacturers, and OSHA regulates customers of stone manufacturers. Thus, a potential conflict of MSHA and OSHA requirements could occur and should be avoided.

The OSHA panel said that the HAZCOM standard requires labeling of any product containing more than 0.1 percent because silica is a human carcinogen. The two agencies are coordinating closely, and involving NIOSH, as their standards move forward.

An abrasive blasting stakeholder remarked that it is almost impossible to control extremely fine particles with engineering controls. Respiratory protection will be needed. His company will try to meet with OSHA regarding appropriate personal protective equipment.