The Associated General Contractors of California has put out an alert to its members to hold off retrofitting their equipment with CARB-compliant diesel emission reduction filters (retrofit filters).

“There are regulation revisions and studies in process that will affect the types of compliant filters, the pieces of equipment they are approved for and where they are installed on the equipment,” the AGC reports. “Before you spend hundreds of thousands of dollars retrofitting equipment that may be in violation of Cal/OSHA regulations, Cal/OSHA and CARB must determine whether or not the filters impair equipment operator visibility.”

The AGC says that on Oct. 14, it along with Operating Engineers Local 3, CALPASC, California Labor Federation, Department of Industrial Relations, Division of Occupational Safety & Health and the Standards Board met with representatives from California Air Resources Board and the governor’s office regarding the potential safety hazards presented by installing specific types of diesel emission reduction filters on heavy equipment. The discussion of these hazards is a direct result of Petition 507, filed jointly by AGC of California and Operating Engineers Local 3, with the Cal/OSHA Standards Board.

During the meeting, the AGC says an interim agreement in principle was reached regarding safety issues when installing retrofit filters, until Petition 507 has been finalized in the regulatory process. The agreement is as follows:

  • If a filter adds any vision obstruction to the front, side, or rear of the equipment, it will be considered unsafe.
  • Cal/OSHA will be required to develop a consistent, reproducible test, for determining what constitutes additional visibility blockage. In other words, if a retrofit filter puts an exhaust stack in a different place, but still achieves the same range of vision, it may be considered a safe retrofit.
  • CARB will develop data in conjunction with Cal/OSHA, as to whether there can be a permissible additional blockage of vision, that doesn't reduce safety. (Obviously AGC and other construction groups don't think this is acceptable, but the State wants to at least do the evaluation.)

In the meantime, for those fleets that are in process of considering adding, or have already added retrofit filters, the AGC says you should do the following:

  • Review any retrofits already installed, and apply for an exemption if you think they are unsafe.
  • If you believe a retrofit is unsafe, you must notify CARB to receive an exemption for that particular piece of equipment. Contact Kim Heroy-Rogalski, CARB, 1001 I street, P.O. Box 2815 Sacramento, CA 95812; or phone (916) 327-2200; or email to apply for the exemption. Please copy AGC when you do this so that we can ensure your needs are being addressed.
  • If CARB advises you that they believe the retrofit is safe, Cal/OSHA will review the information and make the final decision.
  • These procedures will remain in place, until the data gathering by CARB and Cal/OSHA has been compiled and a resolution is achieved with all stakeholders. AGC will notify you when that change takes place.

The AGC says the construction industry “needs a regulation to ensure that no one, not just CARB, installs anything that impairs vision to the front, sides or rear of heavy equipment.” It says its petition will not be withdrawn.

“We are willing to place it in a holding pattern while the study on vision impairment is conducted as long as we are involved in the process (CARB has assured us that we will be),” the AGC says, adding that it is expected that the study will be completed in April 2010 at which time a decision on the criteria for safely installing retrofit filters and whether there will be a de minimus vision impairment allowed will be issued.

“At that time, the unobstructed visibility criteria language will be made public and we will proceed with the rulemaking,” the AGC says. “If delays occur, it is possible that the Standards Board will proceed with the rulemaking anyway.”

CARB states it will issue a notice within the next two weeks that will explain which equipment can be safely retrofitted (without impairing vision), which cannot and which they are unsure of at this point and need more information on. This notice will also be given to the installers and manufacturers of the retrofit filters.

AGC members with questions are encouraged to
contact Bo Bradley, AGC of California’s Director Safety, Health & Regulatory Services at