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DOL: OSHA silica rule expected soon

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Washington – OSHA’s final rule on silica is expected to be published in the near future, Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez told the House Education and the Workforce Committee during a March 16 hearing about the Department of Labor’s policies and priorities.

OSHA sent a draft of its final silica rule to the Office of Management and Budget in December, signaling a final step before publication of the standard.

“We’ve known about the dangers of silica for 80 years, and we have been working with every stakeholder involved on this issue, and the proposed final rule is at OMB now, and we hope to bring it to conclusion in the very near future,” Perez said.

Committee member Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI) asked Perez if the new rule, including a permissible exposure limit, would be convenient to follow.

“In context with the fact that silicosis is down significantly with present standards, except for a few unique – and I mean unique – hot spots in underground mining in context with the present PEL, are you confident the PEL and the engineering controls mandated by the regulation will meet OSHA’s legal requirement to promulgate a rule that is technologically and economically feasible?” Walberg said. “And in context with the fact – as I understand it from the last testimony – we don’t have measuring devices yet that can measure the new standard, has that changed?”

Perez noted that DOL has undergone a “20-year process of outreach” that has included feedback from NIOSH, scientists, other stakeholders and individuals who have had silicosis, a lung disease caused by inhaling silica dust.

“We have built, as always, a very inclusive process. I’m very proud of that,” Perez said. “One of the things we heard with frequency was you need to make sure standards are flexible so they can be achievable. We had this conversation [regarding] coal dust.”

OSHA had been scheduled to publish the final rule in February, according to its most recent regulatory agenda.

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