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May 17, 2016
OSHA Silica: Impact on Building Products Marketers
Liz Brohan
Liz Brohan

On March 24, 2016, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a final rule to reduce worker exposure to respirable crystalline silica. The OSHA silica rule is comprised of two standards, one for Construction and one for General Industry and Maritime.

OSHA standards provide protection on the job.

The key provisions of the ruling work to:

1. Reduce the permissible exposure limit (PEL) for respirable crystalline silica to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air, averaged over an 8-hour shift. This represents, approximately, an 80% reduction of the previous exposure limit.

2. Require employers to:

  • Use engineering controls (such as water or ventilation) to limit worker exposure to the PEL
  • Provide respirators when engineering controls cannot adequately limit exposure
  • Limit worker access to high exposure areas
  • Develop a written exposure control plan
  • Offer medical exams to highly exposed workers
  • Train workers on silica risks and how to limit exposure

While some industries such as cement and masonry are more impacted by the ruling than others, building construction needs to be in compliance with regulation by June 2017.

An integrated marketing strategy can prepare affected businesses.

CBD Marketing is applying its building products marketing expertise to help manufacturers affected by this ruling. CBD’s silica specialists recommend a comprehensive, integrated strategy that looks at all issues and concerns from a 360-degree perspective. These efforts help ensure public relations readiness, industry outreach, field support and training.

Specifically, building material marketers need to be mindful of deploying best practices that minimize any impact on the business that the ruling might have. CBD Marketing is primarily focused on efforts that will ensure no market share loss for our manufacturer partners. This means engaging PR to proactively minimize possible negative feedback and concentrating on story placements that demonstrate solutions, reinforce trust and provide easy pathways to compliance.

Educating customers can minimize the impact on sales.

Next, marketers should consider the communication touchpoints the can be implemented to educate and support customers. From there, long-term training programs should be developed for the sales teams to use while in the field with their customers.

OSHA’s current permissible exposure limits (PELs) for crystalline silica were adopted in 1971. This is the first they’ve been updated since that time. That means, once your communications are in market and refined over the next couple years, you probably won’t have to go through this exercise again any time soon. However, now’s the time to act on the OSHA silica ruling to defend and grow your business.