As you continue your efforts to make 2013 a productive and profitable year, looming effective dates for new government regulations and proposed rules expected to be released before year-end will demand significant amounts of your attention.
Not surprisingly, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has significant regulations on the horizon affecting the roofing industry. And revised rules from the Department of Transportation (DOT) that go into effect in 2013 also will affect you and the drivers of commercial motor vehicles you employ. Before these rules and regulations become effective, be sure you are aware of the changes that undoubtedly will affect your business.
Crystalline silica is the scientific name for a group of minerals that contain oxygen and silicon. It is a common mineral used in a wide variety of construction products that may appear on material safety data sheets (MSDSs) as "quartz" or "sand." The hazard to workers occurs when the crystalline silica becomes respirable, meaning particles or dust become airborne as a result of cutting or grinding and subsequently are inhaled by workers. Once in the lungs, the small particles become embedded in lung tissue and cannot be dislodged by coughing. Lung function is decreased by the inflammation caused by the presence of the particles and is further hampered by scar tissue that forms around the particlesa disease called silicosis that cannot be reversed.
Roofing exposures to crystalline silica tend to occur when dry-cutting concrete pavers used on low-slope roofs, grinding mortar for flashing installations, and cutting clay or concrete roof tiles with power cuttersall of which use special blades, such as diamond or silicon carbide abrasive blades or cut wheels. These work activities can produce respirable crystalline silica dust.
The current OSHA construction regulation for respirable crystalline silica dust contains an obsolete sampling method for determining the agency's permissible exposure limit (PEL). The OSHA general industry sampling method is the only method available to OSHA compliance personnel and others for assessing airborne exposures, and the result must be converted to an equivalent construction sampling value. OSHA compliance guidance to construction employers is based on a PEL of 0.1 milligrams per cubic meter (mg/m3) of air as an eight-hour, time-weighted average, which is more restrictive than the construction PEL as determined under the current regulation.
Worker protection under current OSHA guidance calls for the use of N-95 dust masks if exposures cannot be eliminated or reduced by cutting methods that break or crack material without creating dust or using water to prevent dust from becoming airborne.
Proposed by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and a number of other occupational safety and health organizations and advocates, the new regulation is expected to contain amore restrictive PEL of 0.05 mg/m3 of air as an eight-hour, time-weighted average.
The new proposed crystalline silica regulation is expected to be released this year for public comment. It currently is under review by the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), a process required to be completed within a maximum of 120 days according to a 1993 Executive Order. The regulation was submitted to OMB in February 2011. OMB has been silent about the reasons for the delay.
Of equal significance are the worker-protection requirements the new regulation may contain with respect to instances where engineering or administrative controls do not reduce exposure levels below the new PEL.
Respiratory protective equipment that provides greater particulate suppression than N-95 dust masks may be required under the new rules. In addition, new provisions for worker medical monitoring, record keeping and other program requirements will not be known until the proposed rule is published, but administrative requirements for roofing contractors are certain to increase.
During OSHA's 2011-12 fiscal year, the agency cited roofing contractors for violations of its current hazard communication standard in 66 instances. It was the 10th most common citation in the roofing industry in states under federal OSHA jurisdiction. By Dec. 1, select elements of a new OSHA Hazard Communication Standard will become effective, and you must be aware of training requirements that you need to undertake before this date.
The new rule is based on internationally agreed-upon standards through the Globally Harmonized System (GHS) of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals that OSHA anticipates will provide for the broadest recognition of identified hazards while reducing costs of disseminating chemical hazard information.
Under the GHS, hazard classification is more specific than the current hazard communication standard. Each hazard falls into a main hazard class such as explosives, toxics or carcinogens. A hazard class has a number of categories within it that further details or specifies the nature of the chemical or mixture. Hazard communication requirements are linked directly to the hazard classification with the result that labeling requirements for signal words ("danger" or "warning"); pictograms (flames, skull and crossbones); and hazard statements ("fatal if swallowed") align with the class and category.
Signal words are words used to indicate the relative severity level of a hazard (for example, "danger" is more severe than "warning"). A pictogram is a symbol or other graphic element intended to convey specific information about a chemical's hazards. And a hazard statement is a statement assigned to a hazard class and category that describes a hazard's nature and degree.
Signal words, pictograms and hazard statements make up the "core information" GHS requires product labels to convey to chemical users. The core information specified for a chemical hazard category generally reflects the hazard's severity. The most significant aspect of GHS' hazard classification process is chemical manufacturers and importers must evaluate each chemical for hazard class and category. Importantly, employers (end users such as roofing contractors) are not required to classify chemicals unless they choose not to rely on the classification performed by the manufacturer or importer.
You and your workers will notice changes relating to hazard classification, signal words, pictograms and hazard statements when you see significantly different-looking container labeling. The hazard attempted to be conveyed by pictograms is not always obvious. Therefore, worker training addressing the nature and meaning of pictograms will be critical for the effectiveness of your hazard communication program.
Information relating to chemical products' properties in the workplace that formerly was reported on MSDSs now will be contained in consistently formatted Safety Data Sheets (SDSs), which must be supplied by product manufacturers and distributors. Therefore, the location of particular information, such as flash points or health effects, on all chemical products will be found in identically numbered sections on all SDSs.
The requirement that you maintain an SDS in the workplace for each hazardous chemical used by workers on a job site is the same as required by the previous rule. You must train workers regarding the new hazard communication standard label formats and SDS requirements by Dec. 1. This necessarily will include information about the nature and significance of signal words, pictograms and hazard statements that soon may appear on labels. Chemical manufacturers and distributors have until June 1, 2015, to adopt the new SDS format and labeling revisions of the new hazard communication standard. After Dec. 1, 2015, manufacturers and distributors are prohibited from shipping products not labeled under the new labeling protocol.
According to DOT, hours of service (HOS) rules are intended to keep fatigued truck drivers off the roads. Some revisions to HOS rules become fully effective July 1. The rules apply to drivers of commercial motor vehicles and include any vehicle that meets one of the following:
The following are key changes to the HOS rules that likely will have the greatest affect on your roofing operations beginning July 1:
As a professional roofing contractor, you will have a number of training and compliance challenges during the months ahead to meet new regulatory requirements soon to take effect. Failing to meet these challenges can have severe implications. DOT fines, for example, can be as much as $11,000 if drivers are allowed to exceed the 11-hour driving limit by three or more hours.
NRCA will continue to provide information about new rules affecting the roofing industry and is working on a new hazard communication training program that will be available by the fall to help you comply with the new rules.
Harry Dietz is NRCA's director of risk management.