WFC goes to the mat over OSHA rules
The World Floor Covering Association has notified the Occupational Safety and Health Administration of the Association’s objections to new rules that have been proposed for work involving crystalline silica.
“WFCA fully supports the general concern over worker safety,” said Scott Humphrey, CEO of WFCA. “But the scientific evidence regarding the risks from exposure to crystalline silica simply does not justify imposing the substantial costs of compliance with the new proposal on retail flooring dealers.”
Crystalline silica is a naturally occurring substance found in sand and stone. It is present in flooring products that are sourced from sand and stone, including tiles, glass, concrete and grout. OSHA based its new regulatory proposal on studies of the cumulative effect of crystalline silica inhalation on miners, quarry workers and others exposed to this hazard daily for more than 20 years.
WFCA’s comments to OSHA demonstrated that flooring installers are exposed to crystalline silica dust only occasionally, such as when they cut tile or stone flooring, repair concrete or remove grout. But if the proposed new standards are applied to the operations of independent flooring retailers, those dealers would have to incur substantial costs for new equipment, continuous medical examination and air monitoring, and extensive record-keeping.
The proposed standard cuts previously established exposure limits in half and would require employers to:
• Measure the amount of silica dust that every worker is exposed to in an average eight-hour day;
• Buy and use certain equipment, such as stationary masonry saws, equipped with integrated water delivery systems and HEPA vacuums;
• Limit access of workers to areas that have dust concentrations above the proposed permissible level, but not allow employee rotation to minimize exposure;
• Provide respirators to workers when dust controls cannot limit exposure to the new permissible level;
• Offer medical exams, including chest X-rays and lung function tests at employer expense every three years for workers exposed to conditions above the new permissible levels for 30 or more days per year;
• Provide guidelines and train workers on work operations that result in silica exposure and offer ways to limit exposure; and
• Keep records of workers’ silica exposure and medical exams.
“Most of us were not even aware of the proposed regulation, which would cost dealers thousands of dollars, until WFCA brought it to our attention,” said Scott Walker, chief financial officer, WFCA, and owner, Walkers Carpet One Floor & Home, in Bellingham, WA. “With the association’s call to arms, we immediately mobilized and provided information to explain the low exposure to crystalline silica the average installer would encounter working on flooring.”
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Despite losses, Lampert defends Sears’ direction
Sears Holdings’ CEO Eddie Lampert strongly defended his company in his annual letter to shareholders, saying not only does he believe Sears is headed in the right direction, but that “the entire retail industry is headed to where we already are.”
The letter was released on Thursday, Feb. 27, the same day that the retailer posted its fourth quarter earnings report. Sears lost $1.36 billion last year as sales continued to fall and it closed stores as part of its plan to transform itself into a “member-centric” retailer.
Across Sears’ retail brands, same-store sales fell 7.8% at Sears stores and fell 5.1% at Kmart stores.
Lampert made it clear in the letter he has no intention of heeding the numerous critics who criticize Sears’ stores for being badly in need of updating. Citing such services as in-vehicle pickup and the Shop Your Way app, he noted that the company is focused on reinventing itself continuously through technology and innovation.
“These are areas where much of our investment has been focused over the years, despite the widespread and, we believe, incorrect belief among many outside commentators that what our stores need most are hundreds of millions of dollars more in décor and fixtures,” Lampert said. “We believe that the developments in the entire retail industry validate our decisions to shift much of our investment instead to digital and integrated retail.”
Market Recap: RISI Crow’s Construction Materials Cost Index
A price index of lumber and panels used in actual construction for Feb. 28, 2014
*Western – regional species perimeter foundation; Southern – regional species slab construction.
Crow’s Market Recap — A condensed recap of the market conditions for the major North American softwood lumber and panel products as reported in Crow’s Weekly Market Report.
Lumber: Trading was light in the SPF lumber market, prompting those secondaries needing to move volumes from mills to lower prices in search of takers. Flat pricing at the mill level generated a two-tiered market. Steady sales established firmer #2 pricing in the Southern Pine lumber market. Big box outlets accepted larger volumes of both bright and treated lumber, beginning to stock up for the spring buying season. Mills reported steady to improved buying activity in the Coastal species lumber market as the week progressed, firming some prices and propelling even more moderately higher. Although heavy rains in Southern California kept many of those buyers out of the green Doug Fir market, loaded railcars in transit, often seen at month-end, were conspicuously absent. Market direction in the Inland species lumber market was divided by both location and products. Regions with heavy winter weather were quiet and those buyers only made purchases as their needs dictated. Radiata Pine sales were light for both Shop grades, as well as Mldg&Btr. Order files out to the end of March or further kept prices firm. The market for Ponderosa Pine boards was one of lack of supply as well as a need for low grade. The strength was mostly in the lower grades, with 1×4 and 1×6 #3 the leaders. Producers reported steady sales of #3 to furniture manufactures, as well as some export sales. Sales for ESLP were light, and prices remained firm but unchanged for most items. Eastern White Pine producers continued to struggle with cold temperatures and heavy snows, but most were able to keep mills running. The Western Red Cedar market continued to wait on better weather and a subsequent increase in activity throughout distribution channels.
Panels: Continued winter weather in the northern regions along with the threat of winter weather in the South, kept OSB buyers cautious about making too many purchases. Wholesalers reported light but steady business in most regions. Although some Southern Pine plywood producers reported slightly less buying activity than in the previous couple of weeks, overall demand was generally steady. Order files stretched into the week of March 17, or March 10, and most rated sheathing prices edged a few dollars higher. Western Fir plywood sales slowed at the mill level, leaving order files in the week of March 10. Weather continued to play a key role in limiting consumption. Canadian plywood producers reached a point where they had to entertain discounts on selected items. Once enough sales were written to take pressure off the mills, discounts went away. Particleboard and MDF producers reported steady sales, selling close to production for the week. Railcar shortages created problems for shippers and their customers. Prices for both MDF and particleboard held at prior levels.
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