Federal agencies Silica

Senate budget bill adds steps to OSHA’s silica rulemaking process


Washington – OSHA will be forced to conduct additional reviews and research before updating its Silica Standard, under a funding bill that passed out of the Senate Appropriations Committee June 25.

The fiscal year 2016 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill would fund OSHA at $28 million less than its current spending level of $552.7 million.

During the bill’s markup, Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) introduced an amendment that bars funding for OSHA’s promulgation or implementation of its final silica rule unless the agency:

  • Conducts a Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act review
  • Commissions an independent study by the National Academy of Sciences to examine the ability of industry to comply with proposed exposure limits and the ability of personal protective equipment to safeguard employees, among other things

Hoeven said that although OSHA conducted a SBREFA review in 2003, some small businesses were not included, and technology and the economy have changed in the decade since the review. “We need a modern rule that is up to date so that employees are safe and that businesses are not unduly hurt,” the senator said during the markup.

Silica exposure is linked to a variety of respiratory diseases, including lung cancer. OSHA has been working to update its 40-year-old silica rule for the past 12 years. A proposal issued in 2013 would lower the permissible exposure limit to a level based on recommendations NIOSH originally issued in the 1970s.

Hoeven’s amendment passed in a voice vote, and the appropriations bill was reported to the full Senate for debate.