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Group urges OSHA to amend asbestos stance.

The Safe Buildings Alliance (SBA), in comments to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), urged the agency to "avoid imposition of inordinate compliance costs on building custodial, maintenance and repair activities' involving in-place asbestos.

In a document prepared for the agency's reopened asbestos rulemaking, SBA asked OSHA to amend its proposal because it would achieve little, if any, benefit in worker health protection and would impose costs "well in excess Coillions of dollars per theoretical cancer avoided) of any other health and safety standard ever issued by the agency." SBA did, however, support OSHA's proposal for asbestos inspections and worker notification, training and protective measures.

Specifically, OSHA's 1990 Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA) failed to analyze the true costs imposed by requiring all asbestos maintenance activities - even small-scale, short-duration tasks - to be 'regulated areas.' As OSHA itself found in 1984, such maintenance work poses 'negligible occupational health risks to any potentially exposed populations;' thus, given existing low exposures, the imposition of new requirements would impose immense costs on building owners for little health benefit.

"We urge OSHA to develop a performance standard for building maintenance and repair," said John Welch, president, Safe Buildings Alliance. 'Such a standard will assure worker protection in the most cost effective manner; it will assure low employee exposures while giving building owners the flexibility they need to achieve these low levels by a variety of proven means."

SBA comments also included a study by Dr. Robert W. Crandall of the Brookings Institution which analyzed the costs and benefits of the proposed rule. Dr. Crandall's study, using OSHA's own exposure estimates, concluded that the proposal's costs would exceed $1 billion per theoretical cancer avoided - an amount unprecedented for health and safety rule compliance. SBA comments, as demonstrated by the study, argued that the costs imposed by OSHA's proposal would be completely out of proportion to any benefits. Additionally, these costs would largely be imposed on the already troubled commercial real estate industry.
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Title Annotation:Safe Buildings Alliance challenges health and safety rule proposed by Occupational Safety and Health Administration regarding worker health protection during inspection of in-place asbestos
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Jan 20, 1993
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