The US Occupational Safety & Health Administration released proposed rules on August 23 that would cut in half the permissible exposure limit (PEL) of crystalline silica. The current PEL of 100 μg/m3 of air would be halved to 50 μg/m3, with an action level of 25 μg/m3. OSHA’s proposed lower PEL would apply to all of general industry, including foundries. In addition to the lower exposure limit, OSHA proposes additional engineering controls and ancillary provisions.
OSHA estimates the annual compliance cost of the new standard to be $640 million. The American Chemistry Council estimates the economic impact will be closer to $5.5 billion, with foundries’ cost to comply at $1-$2 billion annually. OSHA projects the total benefits of the new rule will top $4 billion, while preventing 1,600 new silicosis cases annually and preventing 700 silicosis deaths per year. Under the current standard –which has been in effect for over 40 years – the mortality rate from silicosis has fallen by over 90%. For many foundries, this new standard could be a fatal blow to profitability. Below is a text of OSHA’s proposed rulemaking and the slides of the webinar about this issue conducted by the American Foundry Society.