Today's News / Safety in the Construction Industry / Environmental and Occupational Health

Union head calls silica rule delay heartless

An estimated 100 died during two years of inaction

February 20, 2013
KEYWORDS delay / exposure / silica / trumka
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AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said it’s time for the Obama administration to push forward on a proposed silica delay that has been stuck in limbo at the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for two years – long past the required 90 day deadline.

In a blog post on www.huffingtonpost.com, Trumka blamed “well-funded knee-jerk opposition by business trade groups and industry associations” for blocking the stronger silica dust limits proposed by OSHA.

“I've seen how hard it is to take on the heavyweight corporate lobbyists who hold so much sway in Washington,” wrote Trumka. “But I've also seen what a worker's struggle for breath looks like. You see, I come from a three-generation coal-mining family in a coal-mining town. We know what work can do to a person's lungs.”

He called the silica rule delay “inexcusable and heartless.”

The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (NCOSH) estimates that during the two-year delay, 100 people have died and thousands have become ill from silica exposure.

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.

Industry groups who oppose new standards argue that current regulations are sufficient and that new ones will cost them billions of dollars annually and as many as 170,000 jobs over the next decade. The proposal is estimated to carry an economic impact in excess of $100 million.

Proponents of a silica rule have launched an online petition demanding that President Obama take action on it. Click here for more information.

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