by Richard Rowell, Staff Writer
As someone who worked for a number of years in the lumber & building materials industry, I am well aware of the struggle between LBM Dealer & Builders Assocations and OSHA. The government has been taking a lot of flak recently for reducing the funds for education of preventing occupational hazards and instead funneling that money into enforcement. The exorbitant fines for non-compliance are only growing and not actually solving the problems.
I am not against OSHA. The entire concept of OSHA is a good one, a government-funded organization meant to protect workers and their health in the workplace. The new proposed Crystalline Silica Rule is actually nothing new - they are simply working to make it much more stricter. You could say this is just another money grab. The National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) would have you think so. They say that "the rule would cost between $3 billion and $4 billion, nationally, in lost personal income and would eliminate between 60,000 and 130,000 jobs."
Um, what? Then they said: "For a 10-employee residential remodeling firm, the cost of the proposed rule would be approximately $35,000, or about $3,500 per employee. Costs vary by industry and firm size." (Source: NARI on the Hill)
OK, wait a minute. Why the hell would the US Government purposely sabotage remodeling companies? That is preposterous. We're in a struggling economy and the Government wants to ruin one of the few industries that is currently growing? I don't know about you, but that sounds awfully fishy to me.
To be even more fair, the rule won't affect all that many remodeling companies. We're talking about job-sites where concrete, stone, and brick are heavily involved. We're talking mostly about commercial projects here. Your everyday home remodeler or builder will see only minimal new regulations, and if they're properly educated about them, everything should be fine.
It would also be nice if the silly Government instead of fining people to death offered incentives to people to buy proper safety equipment in the first place! Fall Protection is the major issue OSHA has been focusing on and why shouldn't they? Too many contractors don't follow the rules, and even more sub-contractors break the rules and screw over the contractors. The bad apples deserve to be caught and fined because they're putting their innocent blue-collar workers lives at risk!
The problem is, as I've said, is the whole lack of education. IT's the policymakers in Washington that are the problem, not the people working at OSHA that actually are looking out for the good of the workers. This rule is not being forced on us. Just like any other proposed rule, it's going through a public referendum. Of course, the general public wants people to be safe! Don't we all? And it's not like the known dangers of particulate crystalline silica are something new; we've known about them since the early part of the 20th century! I guess we haven't come all that far in 75 years, have we?
So where the hell is NARI getting these numbers? From "comments submitted by OSHA's Small Business Review Panel." Not facts. Comments.
What does OSHA have to say about the rule? It will have economic benefits!
"The proposed rule is estimated to provide average net benefits of about $2.8 to $4.7 billion annually over the next 60 years. It is expected to result in annual costs of about $1,242 for the average workplace covered by the rule. The annual cost to a firm with fewer than twenty employees would be less, averaging about $550. The proposed rule is expected to have no discernible impact on total U.S. employment." (Source: OSHA Fact Sheet)
Annual costs of about a thousand dollars a year for the average workplace. A measly thousand dollars. Plus, you're benefiting the economy by stimulating the sales of safety equipment and providing new jobs to educate the bosses and workers in the new rule. Then, the second part, the majority of the NARI membership, those firms with twenty or fewer employees: they'd pay about $550 a year.
OK, these are averages, I know. But do you see what I see here? There's a slight disparity betweena loss of 3 or 4 billion dollars and a net gain of 3 to 5 billion dollars. OK, well where is the benefit going, you ask? Yeah, probably the government. I get it. But if you look at the proposed rule, I don't see how it's going to cost an ordinary remodeler $35,000 a year. I have no idea where the hell NARI is getting their numbers from.
You know what I think? It's conservatives versus liberals again. I think the truth of the matter is somewhere in between, although I will trust a GOV site far more than I'd ever trust "comments" by a "review panel." People need to wake up and realize the real problem... If we were educated in the things that we should already be doing in the first place, which was the entire purpose of what OSHA was intended for in its creation, we wouldn't be having these problems! But as usual, the policy makers in Washington just see OSHA as another way to fine people to create income for our irresponsible politicians to waste more money. It's not OSHA that's the problem. It's the government and the people that follow special interest groups like sheep.
Do I beleive everything I read? Of course not. But I urge you to look at both sides. You should write to your Congress-people. NARI is right on that. But you should write to them to inspire education and benefits to those that follow the rules. People like being rewarded. You'll spend about the same amount of money and less companies will go out of business. You'll stimulate the economy even further by helping companies provide needed building and remodeling services and fewer people will lose their lives or their health from things that are easily preventable.
Simple solution, huh? They'll never take it. But you can try to propose it. Heck, OSHA is wide open to suggestions. They actually care. It's the ones that control their budgets that don't.
Stay educated and never believe what you read in a newsletter.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons user Jamain
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