Demolition contractors and C&D recyclers have to comply with state and federal regulations regarding many aspects of their businesses from stormwater runoff, to dust and noise control, to safety, to what markets they can sell their end products into.
Regulations can be a hassle or add expense to a project. Sometimes they can prevent end markets from being developed. A recycler or demolition contractor may even determine that a particular law is unfair. While legislation and regulations can be well intentioned, they can often have a negative impact on a particular industry segment. When that happens it is important to make your concerns known.
In the March/April issue of Construction & Demolition Recycling, Turner Construction’s Michael Deane said he was in favor of industry regulations as they help create an even playing field. They reduce the likelihood of a competitor cutting corners because everyone has to play by the same rules, he said.
So far, 2014 has resulted in some major victories for the recycling industry on the regulatory front. In March, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed an amendment to its Non-Hazardous Secondary Materials Rule, making allowances for C&D wood, creosote-treated railroad ties and paper recycling residuals to be used as boiler fuel. This is welcome news for the C&D recycling industry and other industries that have been lobbying for this rule change for years.
Other victories for recyclers are the EPA’s beneficial use determinations for the use of coal ash in concrete as a substitute for portland cement as well as the use of flue gas desulfurization gypsum as a substitute for mined gypsum in wallboard. Perhaps it will open the door for other secondary materials to be considered in these and other processes.
It sounds as though the EPA is listening to industry input, and the same is happening on the state level. Illinois has begun to allow recycled asphalt shingles and other secondary materials in its road base. Hopefully more states that aren’t yet doing this will soon follow. Additionally, many C&D recyclers say they hope their state regulators would determine beneficial uses for C&D fines and residuals. But in order for change to occur, the industry needs to continue to speak up.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA’s) proposed silica rule is another issue that is creating concern among recyclers, demolition contractors and many construction trades. The Construction Industry Safety Coalition (CISC), a group of about 25 trade organizations, has provided more than 100 pages worth of comments to OSHA about why the rule is too stringent. The CISC argues that the new proposed permissible exposure limit of crystalline silica would be nearly impossible for the industry to meet. (You can read more about in the article, “Limited exposure” on p. 40).
I hope OSHA will take the construction industry’s concerns into consideration. If the previous examples of how industry has influenced regulators’ decisions is any indication, then I think there is a good possibility efforts by the CISC will have an impact. When other related industries have the same interests, being a united force can and is making a difference. Don’t underestimate the influence you can have on lawmakers and regulators by letting them know how their decisions are affecting your livelihood.
Marpan Recycling, based in Tallahassee, Fla., has been recycling mixed C&D material since 2008, but with a Class III recycling permit and a recent contract with the city and Leon County, Fla., for single-stream recycling, Marpan is recovering a whole lot more than wood and concrete.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) defines Class III waste as “yard trash, construction & demolition debris, processed tires, carpet, cardboard, paper, glass, plastic furniture, appliances or other materials approved by the department that are not expected to produce leachate ... ”
So it’s not uncommon to see Marpan employees ripping out foam padding and metal from a mattress or salvaging car bumpers and five-gallon buckets from its mixed loads. Marpan is constantly growing its end markets to find outlets for the various materials it accepts. Its president, Kim Williams says when the facility first opened in 2008, it sorted and sold 15 different commodities and in 2009 it increased to 27. By 2010, Marpan was recovering 33 different end products. “Today, we separate and sell somewhere in the neighborhood of 70 different commodities,” Williams says.
Opening the Class III recycling facility didn’t happen overnight. Marpan purchased the property in 2005, but the permitting process took a few years. During that time, Williams said he would attend C&D recycling events and read Construction & Demolition Recycling magazine for insights into the business. “I’d read a story and I’d be intrigued about a process or about a market and I would call people,” he says. “I was invited to a number of facilities around the country to see how they did their C&D recycling, which helped design the facility.”
Marpan built a 25,000-square-foot processing facility in Tallahassee, designed and constructed by Sherbrooke OEM, Sherbrooke, Quebec. It was the first Class III recycling facility to open in the state of Florida. The recycling operation is an extension of the container and hauling company Marpan has operated since 1967.
It was while operating the hauling company that Williams had the idea for opening a recycling facility. “I couldn’t in good conscience continue to go to a landfill and throw away things that were very easy to recycle,” he says.
Williams says as haulers, the company was delivering about 200 tons a day to the local landfill. Williams predicted volume would double at the recycling facility when it opened in May 2008, but he says, “At the end of the day, all we had was 200 tons. We realized real soon that the volumes we had anticipated when we built the facility weren’t going to be there. It was about 50 percent of what we hoped for.”
Then in January 2009, the local landfill closed to everybody but Marpan, so material that once went straight to the landfill had to be processed through Marpan’s Class III facility first. But Williams says, “Even with the landfill closing, diverting materials to us, we were still only receiving 200 tons a day. We realized if we were going to have more recyclables, we had to find it.” So Marpan set about picking more items out of the material stream.
Marpan also began processing curbside material from Leon County for the firm Waste Management, Houston. The operation began as a small separate line to process the dual-stream recyclables (paper and containers sorted separately) it received. Then Leon County and the city of Tallahassee had discussions about moving to single-stream recycling.
Marpan Recycling at a glance
Principals: Kim Williams, president
No. of employees: 81 total (Marpan Supply and Marpan Recycling), 46 at recycling operations
Services provided: Class III (includes C&D debris) and single-stream recycling
Equipment used: Class III: mixed C&D plant from Sherbrooke OEM with screens and Destoner air classifier from General Kinematics; Single-stream: plant consists of various used equipment, includes a modified finger screen with a ballistic separator from General Kinematics and Metal Tech Systems.
Materials recycled: More than 70 different commodities
Tons recycled annually: 60,000 tons from Class III facility and 17,000 tons from the single-stream facility
Williams says, “I started going and looking at single-stream facilities. The difference was, I owned a C&D facility and I liked the type of screens that we had.” Williams points out that most single-stream facilities use disc screens while Marpan’s C&D facility uses a star screen and finger screens.
“I wanted to use a finger screen as my primary screen, and we were able to work with General Kinematics and Metal Tech Systems to design a rod deck (a modification of a finger screen), to make a primary screen for our single-stream facility,” says Williams. “We just broke away from the industry completely because we were experienced with that style of equipment from a maintenance and performance standpoint.”
Using the modified finger screen with a ballistic separator at the single-stream facility greatly cut down on maintenance, in Williams’ opinion. “If you had a lot of maintenance on the screen it would adversely impact your bottom line,” he explains.
Williams does recognize that a higher-volume single stream facility may need a different screening technique to achieve higher velocity, but Marpan’s configuration works well and is cost competitive for the volume it gets from the 280,000 residents of Leon County, he says.
Using C&D recycling equipment at the single-stream recycling facility also allows Marpan to use the same staff at both the Class III and single-stream plants, which opened in January 2013. Marpan is processing an estimated 1,400 tons per month through the single-stream facility in addition to the 5,000 tons of C&D and other Class III materials it processes per month.
While the two recycling facilities are separate, Marpan is able to capitalize on having both plants on one property. Because of the single-stream facility, Marpan can collect similar plastics in its Class III plant and “quickly build a truckload,” according to Williams. “Otherwise you might sit on that stuff for a long time.”
Another benefit to colocating is that residuals from the single-stream material recovery facility (MRF) can be processed at the Class III plant. “We actually take the residual of our single-stream plant, put it on the floor of our C&D plant and run it down the line to get one more look at it,” says Williams. Marpan has recovered ferrous scrap and aluminum cans using this method. Additionally, the residuals of the Class III facility are the only material out of both facilities that needs to be compacted and taken to landfill.
“We get a lot of visitors from communities of our size who are interested in building either a C&D or single-stream facility,” says Williams. “I think it is important for people to see it, especially the C&D industry, which is my primary industry, to know how to do it the right way to produce a high-quality product.”
Williams emphasizes the importance of quality and for good reason. “We try to keep the quality consistent because if we lose the trust in the customer, it is hard to get it back,” he says.
Tapping young talent
Williams is on the board of the Florida State University Research Foundation. Through his connections, he says, “I’ve had opportunities on numerous occasions to meet with their students to create projects that would use recycled material and create a higher value for it, and to look for new ways to recycle items that aren’t currently recyclable.”
In one project, students created a windmill that used a servo motor from a discarded copy machine printer in conjunction with a solar cell. The idea behind it was to provide a power source to people in third world countries. “The two together would provide enough current to charge a cell phone or battery for LED light,” says Williams.
Students also have worked on developing solutions for composite material, gypsum and glass. “The students love to be involved with a recycled material process,” Williams says. “They come up with great ideas.”
About 40 percent of the incoming Class III loads come from Marpan trucks. The other 60 percent come from other haulers, local residents and smaller contractors. Marpan has an inbound and outbound scale. The two-scale configuration was a result of Williams’ experience at the landfill. “Having experienced the landfill before we built our facility, we spent a lot of time having to wait. Having one scale didn’t seem like a very efficient process for us,” he says.
Williams says by installing two scales, Marpan has been able to reduce time at the recycling facility as compared with the landfill by 20 minutes.
When trucks arrive at Marpan Recycling, they are directed to a tipping floor where their loads are dumped. An excavator loads material onto an apron conveyor, which feeds the finger screen. The unders fall onto a B line where they move across a magnet and screen and are met with several hand sorters before finally going through a Destoner air classifier. “The A line continues straight and the big stuff is removed by a cadre of manual sorters,” describes Williams.
Marpan processes wood in somewhat of a nontraditional way, by using electricity instead of diesel and a vertical grinder instead of a tub or horizontal grinder. Williams calls the facility’s wood process, “A very important design.”
Williams says he learned of the configuration from a European salesman he met at a Morbark Demo Days event selling slow-speed, high-torque shredders primarily for wood reduction.
“He told me he was able to shred the material into 12- to 18-inch pieces then run it through a trommel to remove dirt and across magnets to remove metals,” he explains. Then he took the material through a vertical electric mill. The businessman told him it was the most energy efficient way to grind wood. Williams estimates Marpan saves about 36 gallons of diesel fuel per hour by operating the high-torque shredder and electrical grinder. He adds that grinding wood in a vertical manner drops the wood down a shoot thereby eliminating the hazard of flying wood pieces.
Marpan takes the wood down to a two-and-one-eighth-inch minus product. The company produces three different colors of garden mulch from C&D wood. “The problem with mulch is it is seasonal,” says Williams. “We still need another market for it, and in that instance we use it for biomass fuel and burn it for electricity.”
Williams says C&D debris or “any other product in our buildings or on our facilities that someone might find less than pristine” can be somewhat challenging to recycle because of the various rules and regulations on burning biomass fuel.
According to Williams, “There’s a lot of good fuel going out the back door of our building, and it is a shame that it gets buried.” He says the U.S. needs to be more like Europe by getting better at recovering its residuals. “We need to be more insightful in that regard and less afraid to try new technologies,” he says.
Williams says that with any secondary commodity, it is necessary to “start with the end in mind. My experience is if you don’t have a process and a finished product to show the market, you can’t sell it,” he says.
Commodities recovered at Marpan’s single-stream and Class III facilities are met with mixed success depending on the markets for each product at any given time. Williams says the mixed paper market continues to struggle, while plastics have held steady. Also, volume is picking up overall. “We are up 20 percent from where we were,” says Williams. “We are seeing some significant increases in our hauling business, particularly through the winter, and we have noticed a lot of pickup in the past 30 days, which leads me to believe we are going to exceed what we did last summer.”
Williams has witnessed numerous changes to waste collection, hauling and recycling over the years, and the company has always been able to adapt and grow. The past few years have been particularly challenging, entering new areas of businesses during a time of economic downturn. As Williams describes it, “It has been one hell of a ride through the longest recession in my lifetime, and we have survived it and are looking forward to a robust market.”
The author is managing editor of Construction & Demolition Recycling and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More with Marpan: Visit the Multimedia section of www.CDRecycler.com for a video interview with Marpan Recycling President Kim Williams and for a look inside Marpan Recycling’s Tallahassee, Fla., operations.
Online sidebar: Read about Marpan Recycling President Kim Williams’ first recycling venture online in the sidebar “A bright idea” at www.cdrecycler.com/cdr0514-bright-idea.aspx.
The construction industry is one that eats materials for breakfast. It chews them up, spits them out and then comes back for more. What’s left are the waste materials that can either end up in a landfill or be sent to a recycling facility like Sun Recycling in West Palm Beach, Fla., operated by Southern Waste Systems (SWS), headquartered in Lantana, Fla.
Founded in 1999, SWS is an industry leader in the collection and processing of commercial and residential waste. As the largest privately owned recycler of construction and demolition material, yard waste, recovered materials and mixed waste in the southeastern United States, its innovative recycling processes have been met with national acclaim. The company’s goal of its business is to turn the highly recyclable products it collects into marketable products that can be put back into the economy instead of a landfill.
At the West Palm Beach facility, Sun Recycling operates on a 12-acre site. The facility takes material from third-party customers as well as from SWS. Rock crushers and wood grinders go to work in breaking down construction debris items to their most basic and reusable forms. In processing wood, metal, concrete, cardboard and plastics, Sun Recycling has a recovery rate of up to 92 percent. The debris comes in on trucks and then the Volvo equipment goes to work.
Southern Waste Systems owns 50 pieces of Volvo equipment, which clock in about 2,000 hours each per year.
Paul Valenti is the director of facility operations at Sun Recycling. As he looks across the wide expanse of the main yard, dozens of Volvo machines fill his view. When asked why his company has made such an investment in Volvo equipment, he answers with one word: uptime.
“One of the most important decisions for us in why we purchase Volvo equipment is uptime,” Valenti says. “The Volvo equipment will stand up to our heavy-duty cycle with the long hours, and at the end of the day that’s the name of the game. If there’s no equipment and no uptime, there’s no recycling.”
Sun Recycling’s rock crusher, a Volvo EC300D excavator is equipped with a hydraulic pulverizer attachment, simultaneously moving and crushing rocks and concrete the size of motorcycles. In an environment like this, the Volvo Care Cab becomes more necessity than luxury, Valenti says. Mounted on viscous silicon rubber to absorb shocks and provide comfort, the operator cab is a safe environment with filtration through 14 air vents, and low noise and vibration. With features like a rear-view camera and a color I-ECU monitor, the interior is designed to provide comfort and safety.
More excavators are found at Sun Recycling’s wood grinding operation. The Volvo EC250DL excavators are equipped with three-over-two grapple attachments. The excavators lift piles of wood waste and place waste into the grinder. Excavator attachments are switched out with versatility depending on the application — whether that application requires a bucket, grapple, fork or other attachment.
Throughout the Sun Recycling facility a series of Volvo L220 and L250 wheel loaders move tons of recyclable products through the process, including materials such as rock and concrete, logs, wood waste, cardboard or plastics. These wheel loaders help Sun Recycling to keep production moving at peak performance.
Equipped with OptiShift, the wheel loaders are designed to offer fuel efficiency and operator experience. OptiShift is a feature offered by Volvo Construction Equipment, Shippensburg, Pa., designed to increase operator comfort and machine durability while optimizing fuel savings. Load and carry applications such as those experienced at Sun Recycling can expect up to 15 percent fuel savings over the competition, with some applications experiencing up to 30 percent better fuel efficiency, according to Volvo. OptiShift combines the company’s patented Reverse by Braking (RBB) system and a new torque converter with lock-up and free wheel stator. The result is shorter cycle times, durability and fuel efficiency. OptiShift combined with CareTrack (the Volvo telematics system that provides machine monitoring information) marries built-in fuel efficiency with the ability to track a machine’s performance and keep tabs on fuel usage.
“With the cost of fuel today, and the amount of hours that we put on the machines, fuel efficiency is extremely important,” Valenti says. “The CareTrack program allows us to monitor fuel consumption and the way the operator is operating the machine. If we see a machine that is burning too much fuel, we can address the operator and try to remedy the situation. We have done this over the last three to four years, and our fuel consumption across the board on all of our equipment has dropped somewhere in the range of a gallon and a half per hour. If I take that times 2,000 hours for 50 machines at $3.50 a gallon, that’s a substantial savings to the bottom line.”
Spending less on fuel helps add to Sun Recycling’s profit margin, Valenti says. And fueling less frequently means less downtime. As demand increases, that becomes more and more important. With government regulations enforcing higher recycling rates, Sun Recycling must be able to keep up with the increasing demands placed upon it by contractors in the company’s area requiring a recycling facility for their waste materials. Reliable machinery that performs at a consistently high level is necessary for them to stay ahead of that demand.
“As a trendsetter in the industry of recycling construction material, we realize it’s important that we have equipment that can keep up with the demands of uptime,” Valenti says. “Volvo has a key role in that uptime.”
Building a business around environmental sustainability and recycling and reusing construction debris is an admirable proposition. But it’s a business nonetheless. Like any other business, SWS and Sun Recycling rely on their equipment to do the job consistently at a high level.
The article was submitted on behalf of Volvo Construction Equipment, based in Shippensburg, Pa.
To watch a video showing how equipment is being put to use at Sun Recycling in West Palm Beach, Fla., visit www.CDRecycler.com/sun-recycling-volvo-video.aspx.
On any given construction project, an estimated 20 percent of drywall ends up as scrap. Apartment buildings, dormitories and hotels are just a few examples of the types of jobs that use a lot of drywall, and as construction activity begins to pick up, drywall is making its way into mixed C&D recycling facilities more and more. Understanding what to do with this material either on a job site or at a C&D recycling operation can help to increase diversion rates with added benefits of cost savings, extra credits toward Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification and new product manufacturing.
USA Gypsum in Reinholds, Pa., has been making products out of recycled gypsum drywall generated from construction sites and C&D recyclers for more than a decade. The company is in the process of a facility expansion that will help it capitalize on current markets for this material as well as scaling up developing markets that can use drywall. USA Gypsum President Terry Weaver spoke with Construction & Demolition Recycling Managing Editor Kristin Smith about how the gypsum drywall industry continues to develop.
Construction & Demolition Recycling (C&DR): What are the benefits of recycling gypsum drywall?
Terry Weaver (TW): The first thing is that most landfills would prefer not to have gypsum because of potential H2S (hydrogen sulfide) problems, so it is an advantage to the landfill owners. In most cases there is a cost savings to diversion of drywall to us versus the landfill. Drywall doesn’t burn and increases ash and sulfide emissions at waste-to-energy plants. A third benefit is we are able to produce quality agricultural products from a waste stream with a 100 percent recycling rate. We don’t have any losses when we get a piece of drywall. We reclaim it and all of the material is reused.
C&DR: How are you able to achieve 100 percent recycling of the drywall scrap you process?
TW: We separate the paper facing from the core. The paper facing is good quality fiber. The core of the drywall made up of mineral gypsum, which is a pretty basic mineral. We market most of the products we make into the animal bedding market, mostly for dairy cattle. The unique characteristic of gypsum reclaimed from drywall would be that it is dry. It has been ground very fine, so it has some inherent physical difference from the mined gypsum that farmers might buy or utilize.
C&DR: How has interest in recycling gypsum drywall grown over the years, and to what do you attribute the growth?
TW: I think the growth for us since about 2006 has been driven mostly by C&D processing. We went from one C&D processor sending us some trial loads in 2006 to more than two dozen regular processors sending us drywall that they separate out. Nearly 80 percent of our volume comes from C&D processors. I think LEED and the whole green movement is what pushed them in that direction early on. That was maybe what got the movement started. I think now it may be more driven just by economics.
C&DR: What should a C&D processor know before it begins recycling gypsum drywall from its incoming material stream?
TW: First and foremost we do not recycle drywall that is painted or from demolition. We take new drywall trimming scrap. Secondly, most people sort the drywall from the other foreign material in loads on the tipping floor and not on their pick lines. The reason for that is by the time you dump it, handle it with a grapple and move it across a couple of screens, there is not enough identifiable pieces to make recovering it worthwhile. That is probably our biggest challenge with the C&D processors is it needs to be done on the tip floor. Drywall is probably the most difficult material to sort from the waste stream.
C&DR: Why don’t you accept demolition drywall in your processes?
TW: It is both for regulatory reasons and end markets. As soon as you look at demolition material, someone wants to know has there been lead abatement, etc. Even if I could do it from a regulatory standpoint, I don’t think the end markets would accept it. We are working on some new markets that I think would be appropriate uses, and so far we’ve been encouraged by responses by Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In reality though, there is not much drywall coming out of demolition that can be separated.
C&DR: What types of projects are good candidates for gypsum drywall recycling?
TW: With 80 percent coming from C&D recycling centers, whatever they care to separate out for us we are happy to have. If someone is going to try source separating at a construction site, then there is a multitude of pros and cons. You have to consider extra containers, how many hours you can work, how many elevators you have to take materials down. Close to here we do have a few of our own containers. We also work with haulers and pick up at residential new construction projects within 50 miles of here. We love retirement apartment complexes, hotels and dormitories because they generally have lots of walls and openings and they generate a lot of material.
C&DR: How does recycling gypsum drywall help earn points toward LEED certification?
TW: You can earn an extra point if you recycle 75 percent of waste generated from a job site as compared to 50 percent. Many types of buildings like dormitories and hotels will not reach a 75 percent recycling rate without recycling the drywall scraps. Some contractors also have claimed the Innovation in Design credit of the LEED Scorecard for recycling drywall.
C&DR: How would a contractor determine whether to source separate material or have it separated at a C&D recycling facility?
TW: Source-separated jobs are governed by geography and distance to our plant. Only about three plants on the East Coast recycle drywall. You just can’t efficiently source separate and haul small containers long distances. You can recover a higher percentage source separating, but to be cost-effective and be truly green you can’t be hauling one Dumpster load a at time 100 miles away. Source separating can be an efficient method of collection, but it is really limited in terms of how far you can travel cost effectively.
In a traditional construction schedule, a large amount of drywall scraps will be generated in a short amount of time. Many of the C&D processors that I work with eyeball those loads. If it only contains a couple of pieces of drywall, they won’t mess with it. But when they see that load come in that is mostly drywall and associated scraps, they will dump that load off to the side, hand sort out the metal and the rest comes to us.
There is an opportunity for C&D processes to accept source-separated drywall and simply transfer it to our tractor trailers for efficient transportation. This solves the problem of difficulty in separating drywall from the waste stream.
C&DR: What types of drywall are accepted into your process?
TW: Our permit says that anything with a standard core and paper facing on it can be recycled. We cannot accept drywall that is painted or from demolition. We don’t accept exterior types of drywall with fiberglass sheeting over the outside and in some cases with additional fiberglass enmeshed into the core. There are a handful of specialty boards that we don’t take, for example high-impact resistant drywall used in gymnasiums and prisons contains a vinyl mesh embedded in the core. About 88 percent of all wallboard manufactured and shipped is either regular or Type X, and that is what we are permitted for.
C&DR: How does USA Gypsum process drywall scraps?
TW: A good way to describe our process that it is a series of size reduction, pulverizing, screening, air and rollers, and we have different sizes of equipment for the different products we make. We have developed the processes we use over a long period of time. The new 33,000-square-foot facility we are building is expected to double our square footage and is designed to triple our current throughput capacity.
C&DR: What end products do you produce with the recycled gypsum and what are the potential markets?
TW: We are about 90-plus percent agricultural products that are either directly land applied or used as animal bedding which then becomes land applied at some point. There are other agricultural uses, but eventually it ends up becoming a soil amendment. We have other markets but they are not the volume of our business. We supply Mannington Flooring with gypsum and it is incorporated into new commercial vinyl floors.
C&DR: What kind of a demand is there for the products you make with recycled gypsum?
TW: We have plenty of room for growth in the agricultural markets. We came at this from the agricultural angle and I think that is somewhat unique. It is a niche for us that I think is difficult for others to break into. We are going to stay somewhat focused on that.
I think utilizing all types of wallboard including demolition and going into the ready-mix concrete industry ties into the EPA’s new ruling. Gypsum is a freight-sensitive product. It is not a very high-priced commodity. If we can perfect using it in ready-mix then I think it is something that could be scaled up. Anywhere that drywall is being installed, ready-mix is being made. The next thing after our expansion is to come up with something that can be scaled up and I believe this is it. This is not just a pipe dream. We just did a 1 million-square-foot project for Dollar General. We’re doing it. We are perfecting it, and we are continuing to research it.
Terry Weaver is president, USA Gypsum, Reinholds, Pa. He can be contacted at Terry@USAgypsum.com.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA’s) mission is to assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance. Since its creation by Congress in 1970, its rules have improved working conditions for many industries. Yet a recent proposed rule to lower worker exposure to crystalline silica is drawing opposition from multiple construction trades that say the rule goes too far.
“Exposure to airborne silica dust occurs in operations involving cutting, sawing, drilling and crushing of concrete, brick, block and other stone products and in operations using sand products, such as in glass manufacturing, foundries and sand blasting,” OSHA stated when it announcement its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Occupational Exposure to Crystalline Silica in late August 2013. According to the agency, exposure to crystalline silica dust can cause a plethora of health issues, including lung cancer, silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and kidney disease.
OSHA’s proposed rule would lower the permissible exposure limits (PEL) to 50 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3) for all covered industry sectors as an eight-hour time-weighted average (TWA) for all forms of respirable crystalline silica. Current levels for workplace exposure to silica were adopted in 1971 and are 100 µg/m3 for general industry and 250 µg/m3 as a TWA for the construction industry.
OSHA estimates that once the full effects of the new proposed rule are realized, it will save nearly 700 lives and prevent 1,600 new cases of silicosis per year.
While the PELs are the same for all industries, the proposal includes two separate standards, one for general industry and one for construction. “OSHA is also proposing ancillary provisions for employee protection such as methods for controlling exposure, respiratory protection, medical surveillance, hazard communication and recordkeeping,” said William Perry, acting director, Directorate of Standards and Guidance for OSHA during his opening statement at a March 18 public meeting on the rule. The meeting was the first of a series of public hearings that took place in March and April.
Perry continued, “For the construction proposal, OSHA developed a novel approach that would give employers an option, for certain operations, to implement dust controls and practices that are specified in a table included in the standard and not have to conduct periodic exposure monitoring.”
Prior to the public hearing, on Feb. 18, the Construction Industry Safety Coalition (CISC) requested OSHA withdraw its proposed rule. The CISC is made up of about two dozen trade associations. The coalition represents associations from all sectors of the construction and demolition industry, including commercial building, heavy industrial production, home building, road repair, specialty trade contractors and material suppliers. The group says workplace safety and health is a priority for all members of the coalition, and each is committed to helping create safer construction job sites for workers.
One CISC member, the National Demolition Association (NDA), Doylestown, Pa., has been vocal in its opposition of the proposal in its current form. “It is the current position of the Construction Industry Safety Coalition and the NDA that the OSHA proposed silica rule is impractical, does not take into consideration the everyday practices on construction and demolition sites across the country, has elements impossible to enforce and will have significant impact on the American construction economy,” writes NDA Executive Director Mark Taylor in a blog on NDA’s website, www.demolitionassociation.com.
Taylor says in a separate statement, “From the point of view of the demolition industry, OSHA’s proposed crystalline silica rule is unworkable. We do not feel that OSHA has demonstrated that the proposed PEL can be met by demolition industry stakeholders involved in most of the operations we undertake.”
According to Taylor, many in the CSIC believe OSHA has not adequately shown the proposal is technologically and economically feasible. He says CSIC estimates the costs to the demolition and construction industry to comply with the proposed rule would be $2.2 billion. “The NDA, along with its fellow member organizations, which make up the CSIC, welcome the chance to productively collaborate with OSHA on the standard to find the most common-sense way to continue the trend of reducing crystalline silica exposure on demolition and construction job sites,” Taylor says.
As mentioned by Perry, the silica proposal includes a table on “Exposure Control Methods for Selected Construction Operations.” The table gives “Engineering and Work Practice Control Methods” and “Required Air-Purifying Respirator” for 13 different operations. For example, under the “Rock Crushing” category, it says, “Use wet methods or dust suppressants or use local exhaust ventilation systems at feed hoppers and along conveyor belts.” Another category, “Use of Heavy Earthmoving Equipment,” says to “operate equipment from within an enclosed cab having the following characteristics:
- cab is air conditioned and positive pressure is maintained;
- incoming air is filtered through a prefilter and HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter;
- cab is maintained as free as practicable from settled dust; and
- door seals and closing mechanisms are working properly.”
The CSIC filed written prehearing comments on OSHA’s proposed rule on occupational exposure to crystalline silica in which it recommended OSHA implement the table without changing the PELs. “One of the things that we said in our 135 pages is you can avoid a lot of problems if you just implement the table,” explains Taylor.
Taylor says the CSIC wants to convey to OSHA that it shares the same concerns about exposure of silica dust to its workers. “We are trying to protect our most valuable asset,” he says. “That is our skilled, trained work force. If this is a major problem, and there are ways to do this without bankrupting our members and also that is technologically feasible, tell us what you think it is and we will certainly look at all those options.”
Equipment manufacturers have taken measures in their designs to eliminate dust as well, says Taylor. For example, most attachments that cut through concrete have the capability to spray water from the boom arm. Mobile crushing plants are designed to create minimal dust, he adds.
Public hearings on the proposed silica rule concluded April 4. According to OSHA, at the close of the hearing, those participants who have filed notices of intent to appear will have the opportunity to file additional evidence and data relevant to the proceeding and to file final written briefs.
Additional information and data relevant to the proceeding must be submitted within 45 days of the close of the hearing; final briefs, arguments and summations must be submitted 90 days after the close of the hearing.
“We look forward to receiving feedback from our stakeholders on our proposal, and we’re grateful for the continuing high level of public engagement throughout the rulemaking,” Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels said at the beginning of the hearings. “This is an open process and the input we receive will help us ensure that a final rule adequately protects workers, is feasible for employers and is based on the best available evidence.”
The author is managing editor of Construction & Demolition Recycling and can be reached at email@example.com.
Making a proposal
A link to OSHA’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Occupational Exposure to Crystalline Silica is available in its entirety online at www.CDRecycler.com/cdr0514-silica-information.aspx.