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Coating Makers Seek Silica Exemption

Thursday, February 20, 2014

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Monitoring paint manufacturing for excess silica exposure would cost $700,000—10 times the federal government's estimate—and is unnecessary, the American Coatings Association says.

Current controls adequately protect paint manufacturing and many painting operations from excessive silica exposure, the ACA contends in comments submitted in response to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's Proposed Rule on Occupational Exposure to Respirable Crystalline Silica.

"Many ACA members formulate and sell paint and coatings products that contain raw materials that are wholly or partially comprised of crystalline silica," the association told OSHA in a cover letter with its comments.

©iStock / ozgurdonmaz

Paint manufacturing protects workers "with engineering controls and appropriate protective equipment," the ACA says.

"Paint manufacturing is a batch processing operation that often requires the addition of dry materials, including crystalline silica containing pigments, fillers and additives. In our members’ facilities, these operations are conducted with engineering controls and appropriate protective equipment, thus, protecting our workers."

The coating makers' association also urged OSHA to carefully consider "confounding factors" such as smoking and other "lifestyle activities" before singling out silica as a carcinogen.

ACA submitted its comments on Feb. 11, the last day of the five-month public comment period given the proposal. The proposal has drawn more than 1,600 comments. Hearings are set to begin March 18.

Reducing Silica

The proposed rulemaking includes two separate standards—one for general industry and maritime employment, and one for construction—which would have widespread impact on the industrial and commercial coating and abrasive-blasting industries.

Construction-related employers from many sectors have mobilized to fight the proposal rule, which would limit worker exposure to a PEL of 50 micrograms of respirable crystalline silica per cubic meter of air, averaged over an eight-hour day—a sharp reduction from the current limits.

Silica montage

Coating makers want OSHA to examine workers' other lifestyle risks before singling out occupational exposure to silica as a carcinogen.

The proposal also details methods for controlling worker exposure, sets guidelines for conducting medical surveillance, mandates training, and changes recordkeeping requirements.

OSHA says that more than two million America workers each year are exposed to silica dust. The agency says the new standards would save nearly 700 lives and prevent 1,600 new cases of deadly silicosis annually.

Exposures Challenged

The ACA, on the other hand, argues that the proposed rule "carries significant administrative requirement, including medical monitoring and detailed recordkeeping" that are not needed in the paint manufacturing workplace.

ACA cites "OSHA's acknowledgment" that data from prior inspections of those workplaces show respirable crystalline exposures "generally below 20 micrograms per cubic meter"—well below the proposed limits.

The association noted the results of a study it conducted years ago with California's Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment.

That study "showed that the application of a paint containing 6 percent crystalline silica and subsequent sanding of painted surfaces did not result in detectable levels of respirable crystalline silica," the ACA said.

Even workers who spray-apply coatings and perform sanding on silica-containing paint do not meet the proposed PEL threshhold, the association contends.

Costs Cited

"Imposition of a fixed value standard is expected to result in many previously compliant industries and operations facing increased control requirements," the ACA said.

Pouring, brushing, rolling, airless spraying and similar "low-exposure painting operations" should be exempt from routine monitoring requirements, ACA said.

(CPWR: The Center for Construction Research and Safety does not list painting as a task that puts workers at risk, although it does list paints containing silica as materials that may do so. CPWR does include sanding in its tasks that put workers at risk.)

Silica grinding

Workers who sand or apply silica-containing paint do not meet the action threshholds proposed, the American Coatings Association says. CPWR says such paints do pose a risk of silica exposure to workers who handle them.

OSHA has estimated the cost of silica monitoring in the paint manufacturing industry at $70,423. The ACA says its Occupational Health and Safety Committee has put the cost at 10 times that amount.

Likening the silica issue to lead paint issues, the association said: "Of critical importance is the recognition of the limited feasibility of engineering controls for construction operations, including painting.

"In making this point, ACA seeks to acknowledge that existing, established work practice controls for other
hazardous particulate exposures work to address associated respirable crystalline silica exposures."

Other Risks

ACA's comments include numerous requests, including that OSHA:

The ACA's comments in full are available here.

Contact ACA's Javaneh Neokoomaram for more information.


Tagged categories: American Coatings Association (ACA); Certifications and standards; Coatings manufacturers; Lead; Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule (LRRP); OSHA; Regulations; Silica

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