Everybody in California, who makes living digging in the ground, knows he or she has to keep one eye on the dirt in front of their equipment and the other on Sacramento, watching out for another new regulation.

Here’s just a few of the things an owner of an underground construction company, either on his backhoe or at her desk:

  • Air quality rules from the California Air Resources Board (CARB),
  • Water quality regulations from the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB),
  • Labor, wage and hour and public works registration requirements from the Department of Industrial Relations (DIR)
  • Or new rules from one or more of the 231 state agencies paid for by the tax payers. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ List_of_California_state_agencies

We didn’t mention safety issues from Cal/OSHA, although that is definitely in the top four regulators for our state, but mostly because a new Cal/OSHA rule is potentially headed your way—regulations dealing with naturally occurring asbestos—NOA for those you clamoring for another state acronym.

This additional rule is being peddled as a “petition” submitted by a group made up largely of safety consultants. The petition went to the agency’s Standards Board, which last month authorized an advisory committee to look at possible changes to the Construction Safety Order §1529 rule on asbestos to add new rules.

There is reason to look into the issue because safety order §1529, focuses almost exclusively on dealing with the “disturbance and removal of asbestos-containing material in manufactured building materials.” NOA comes out of the ground here naturally often in veins near earthquake faults in the coastal ranges and the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

This is not a large problem for Southern California contractors where NOA exists only in isolated pockets (L.A. and Riverside counties), but is a real issue in Central and Northern California. NOA was a concern on the spillway rebuild of the Oroville Dam last year. Similar issues surfaced at the Calaveras Dam replacement project and subsurface work in San Francisco.

So the “petitioners” continue to push for at least five more regulations that will cover every aspect of our work, whether we need it or not.

Apparently nobody has told Cal/OSHA that CARB already issued regulations regarding this issue. CARB revised their asbestos limit for crushed Serpentinite (the California State Rock) and ultramafic rock in surfacing applications from 5 percent to less than 0.25 percent, and to adopt a new rule requiring best practices dust control measures for activities that disturb rock and soil containing naturally occurring asbestos.

By Brandon Pensick, ECA President
Email: [email protected]