According to Wes Wheeler, director of safety for the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA), a number of issues are currently up in the air under the Trump administration, specifically some federal safety regulations that can affect electrical contractors. However, there are some certainties.

For instance, a great deal of attention is being paid to workplace chemical exposure rules, particularly beryllium and silica. Many of the previous administration’s policies and regulations have changed. The federal reporting requirements for workplace labor and safety violations have been rescinded. Most, if not all of those violations have been settled or abated. Furthermore, on April 10, the “Volks” rule was repealed.

“We don’t feel that beryllium exposure in construction is quite to the levels that OSHA is reporting, and we feel comfortable with the best work practices that are currently in place,” Wheeler said. 

In addition, Wheeler said NECA does not want to see OSHA come into a multi-employer work site and cite ECs who may have had no knowledge or involvement in beryllium exposure.

The new regulation related to construction requirements on silica exposure was originally set to go into effect on June 23, but there is now a 90-day delay to give the new administration additional time to review these changes.

One main concern for ECs relates to Table 1 of the silica regulation.

“It seems like an easy rule: Follow Table 1 and put everyone in respirators when it is needed,” Wheeler said. 

However, it is impractical to expect every worker to wear a respirator. A second concern is that the regulation requires a written respirator program, including surveillance, medical evaluation and more.

“Putting every employer and employee through all of this is an undue burden and economically unfeasible, especially for smaller contractors,” he said.

According to Wheeler, silica-related illnesses have decreased dramatically in recent years, primarily because of best practices put in place by contractors to reduce individual exposures.

Another question is what will happen with the litigation brought up by the construction industry on the silica rule, claiming that the industry would have a difficult time complying with it.

“NECA is a part of the Construction Industry Safety Coalition, which is challenging this rule,” he said.

The association would like to see OSHA return to previous personal exposure limits (PELs), because it believes they were practical when it came to construction.

“We also want a chance to work with OSHA to develop a rule that is technically and economically feasible, with a realistic PEL value, and one that will not punish our contractors who work on multi-employer sites, where exposures can be caused by other contractors or even the natural environment, which could raise levels above what OSHA has on the books now,” Wheeler said.