OSHA Cost Estimates for Silica Standards Woefully Low

The Construction Industry Safety Coalition (CISC) has found that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA)  proposed silica standards for the U.S. construction industry will cost the industry $5 billion per year—roughly $4.5 billion per year more than OSHA estimates. The coalition cautioned that the flawed cost estimates reflect deeper flaws in the rule and urged the federal agency to reconsider its approach.

OSHA’s proposed rule, intended to drastically reduce the permissible exposure limit (PEL) of crystalline silica for the construction industry, will cost builders about $511 million a year, OSHA said. But CISC estimates that the costs to the industry will actually be approximately 10 times more. 

The CISC report estimates that about 80% of the cost  -- or $3.9 billion a year -- will be from the additional equipment, labor and record-keeping required. The remaining 20% of the cost ($1.05 billion per year) will come in the form of higher prices that the industry will have to pay for construction materials and building products such as concrete block, glass and roofing shingles. OSHA failed to take into account these additional costs, which will then be passed down to customers in the form of higher prices.

The proposed rule will also translate into significant job losses for the construction industry and the broader economy. The CISC estimates that the proposed regulation would reduce the number of jobs by more than 52,700 yearly: not just construction jobs, but those in related industries such as building material suppliers, equipment manufacturers and architects. Factoring in the many part-time or seasonal jobs, that number could increase to close to 80,000 positions lost.

“We are deeply concerned about the misguided assumptions and cost and impact errors that OSHA has relied upon in creating this proposed rule that will significantly affect our industry,” said NAHB Chairman Tom Woods. “This report reveals the critical need for OSHA to withdraw its proposed rule until it can put forth a technologically and economically feasible rule that also works to improve industry workers health and safety.”


Rob Matuga