Today's News / Environmental and Occupational Health

OSH pros demand end to silica standard delay

Two-year delay at White House angers occupational health experts

February 15, 2013
/ Print / Reprints /
/ Text Size+

houseIn the two years that a proposed rule to protect workers from exposure to dangerous levels of silica dust on the job has been held up by the White House, more than 100 workers have died and thousands have been sickened by preventable exposure to silica dust.

That figure comes from the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (NCOSH) which is demanding forward movement on the proposed Occupational Exposure to Crystalline Silica rule which has been stuck at the Office of Management and Budget’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) for 730 days – despite a review deadline of 90 days. 

“American workers cannot afford to wait for the federal government to enact this commonsense rule,” said NCOSH Executive Director Tom O’Connor. “Each day that the federal government stalls, workers are needlessly exposed to dangerous levels of silica dust, which is one of the oldest known causes of work-related lung disease.”

Bureaucratic limbo

OSHA has been trying to strengthen rules limiting workers’ exposure to silica since the 1980s, but has been stymied by what the Council says is industry opposition. Its current proposal has been mired in bureaucratic limbo since 2000.

"The Obama administration must push it through the bureaucratic logjam"

 Workers can be exposed to dangerous levels of silica dust through cutting, drilling, grinding, or otherwise disturbing material that might contain silica, such as during construction or mining jobs.

Studies have found a strong association between silica exposure and lung cancer, kidney disease and autoimmune system disorders. Yet, OSHA does not have a comprehensive, protective standard on the books to address it.

 The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) estimates that 1.7 million workers in the U.S. are exposed to silica dust.

Just the cases "we know about"

“Those are just the cases we know about; many cases of silicosis go unreported,” according to a statement by NCOSH.

OSHA’s proposed rule would lower the legal limit of silica dust that workers are permitted to breathe and would require specific control methods, such as wet cutting and ventilation in certain situations. The proposed control measures are intended to be simple and low-cost.  

 Some states, such as New Jersey and California, have implemented safeguards, like banning dry cutting of masonry materials.

 “America’s workers can’t wait any longer for OIRA to move on this,” O’Connor said. “It’s time for a national standard. The Obama administration must push it through the bureaucratic logjam.”

The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health is a federation of local and statewide organizations; a private, non-profit coalition of labor unions, health and technical professionals, and others interested in promoting and advocating for worker health and safety.

Did you enjoy this article? Click here to subscribe to ISHN.

You must login or register in order to post a comment.



Image Galleries

Scenes from the World of Safety

Sights, signs & symbols from the National Safety Congress & Expo held in San Diego, CA, September 15-18

11/4/14 2:00 pm EST

Eye Injuries: You rarely see them coming. Practical Solutions for reducing injuries to the eye.

The 3M Eye Injury Reduction webinar will provide an examination of how to help solve eye injuries in the workplace. This issue continues to challenge virtually every industry, and the solution is often times multifaceted. 3M will share some new tools and approaches to help you in solving this issue.

ISHN Magazine


2014 October

This issue features articles about PPE safety and OSHA standards

Table Of Contents Subscribe


M:\General Shared\__AEC Store Katie Z\AEC Store\Images\ISHN\safetyfourth.jpg
Safety Engineering, 4th Edition

A practical, solutions-driven reference, Safety Engineering, 4th edition, has been completely revised and updated to reflect many of today’s issues in safety.

More Products

For Distributors Only - SEPTEMBER 2014

ISHN FDO SEPTEMBER 2014For Distributors Only is ISHN's niche brand standard-sized magazine supplement aimed at an audience of 2,000 U.S. distributors that sell safety products. Circulation only goes to distributors. CHECK OUT THE SEPTEMBER 2014 ISSUE OF FDO HERE


Facebook logo Twitter YouTubeLinkedIn Google + icon

ishn infographics

2012 US workplace deathsCheck out ISHN's new Infographic page! Learn more about worker safety through these interactive images. CLICK HERE to view the page.