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MSHA ‘actively working’ on a proposed rule on silica, Williamson says

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Photo: US Department of Labor

Arlington, VA — The Mine Safety and Health Administration is “actively working” toward publishing a proposed rule on respirable crystalline silica, agency administrator Chris Williamson said Oct. 20.

The Department of Labor’s Spring 2022 regulatory agenda – published in June – showed MSHA’s intent to publish in September a notice of proposed rulemaking on silica. During a conference call for agency stakeholders, Williamson didn’t offer an updated timetable during the call but said the rule “is one of the top priorities” at the agency.

 

“Right now in this country, there’s only one worker population that does not have a certain level of protection when it comes to silica, and that is miners. Right now, under our existing standards, the permissible exposure limit (100 micrograms per cubic meter of air) is double what every other worker in this country has. So I just want to put that out there, that people know that’s the reality. We’re working very hard on an improved health standard that we think will make a difference and will definitely better protect miners.”

During the call, MSHA Chief of Health Gregory Meikle cited NIOSH-supported data that contends silica dust can be up to 20 times more toxic than other dusts. Meikle called on stakeholders to tailor existing best practices toward their individual mines and mine activities.

“Some of the levels we’re seeing on overexposures, we’ve got to get proactive if we’re going to protect miners,” Meikle said.

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