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The wait is over

August 27, 2013

After decades of waiting, OSHA has released its proposed standard on crystalline silica.

By and large, worker safety advocates applauded the rulemaking, which would cut the current permissible exposure limit in half, among other proposals, as an effort to reduce workplace risk of silicosis and other deadly lung diseases.

“The proposed rule represents a major improvement in protections for workers – especially those at risk of respiratory disease.”

– Katherine McFate, president and CEO of the Center for Effective Government
“We support the proposed lower standard … which will protect hundreds and possibly thousands of workers from silica-related health effects at almost no cost, as silica exposure can be easily prevented with simple and inexpensive technology.”

– Tee Guidotti, American Thoracic Society’s Environmental Health Policy Committee member
“Workers in industries exposed to silica dust include some of the country’s most vulnerable workers. … This new rule will help to pull them out of the shadows and make them safer at work.”

– Tom O’Connor, executive director of National Council for Occupational Safety and Health

However, some groups oppose at least parts of the rulemaking. Arguably much of the disagreement is over the proposed PEL of 50 micrograms per cubic meter.

“Because our companies have successfully protected their workers under the current permissible exposure limit, we do not believe there is a proven need to lower that level and disagree with OSHA’s proposal to cut that limit in half.”

– Mark Ellis, National Industrial Sand Association president
“The best available science, to our understanding, shows that the current OSHA PEL … is appropriate to protect against silica-related diseases, provided it is adhered to strictly. Accordingly, achieving full compliance with, and enforcement of, the current PEL is the best way to protect silica-exposed workers.”

– Crystalline Silica Panel of the American Chemistry Council

Although both the American Chemistry Council and the National Industrial Sand Association support monitoring and medical surveillance – both of which are in the proposed rule – the sharp disagreement over a stricter PEL suggests OSHA could be facing a fight to finalize the limit as proposed. It’s a truth not lost on some stakeholders, who urge the administration to move quicker than it has previously on the rule, which was stuck under White House review for an unprecedented two-and-a-half years.

“Some industry groups are certain to attack the rule and try to stop it in its tracks. … We urge the Obama administration to continue moving forward with the public rulemaking process without delay. The final silica rule should be issued as fast as humanly possible, to protect the health and lives of American workers.”

– Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO

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

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