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OMB silica review: Two years; too long

February 14, 2013

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In the two years the White House has spent reviewing a proposal to strengthen OSHA’s Crystalline Silica Standard, the agency estimates that 600 people have died from silicosis – a disease caused by silica exposure.

Every year, 2 million workers are exposed to silica, according to OSHA.

But since Valentine’s Day 2011, the proposed rule to update decades-old permissible exposure limits based on outdated science has been has been under review by the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, a branch of the administration’s Office of Management and Budget.

Reviews are not supposed to exceed 90 days. The rule has been in the works for nearly two decades, and the awareness of the harmful occupational exposure has been around even longer than that, as shown by this 1996 video with then-Secretary of Labor Robert Reich.

The delay in issuing the proposed rule has caused significant frustration among stakeholders, many of whom have long pushed the agency to lower PELs for the deadly dust. Public Citizen, a Washington-based nonprofit consumer rights organization, has called the two-year delay “outrageous and unacceptable.”

The National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health has for more than a year called on OSHA to “take whatever steps are necessary and possible to issue the proposed silica rule without further delay.” Deaths and disease from silica is 100 percent preventable, as OSHA itself has said.

Two years is too long.

The opinions expressed in "Washington Wire" do not necessarily reflect those of the National Safety Council or affiliated local Chapters.

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