"The industry’s letter continues a long tradition of regulated industries claiming that OSHA standards would put them out of business, kill jobs and wreak havoc on the American economy," writes Barab in his Confined Space blog. Regulated industries always claim that OSHA regulations will the costs will be much larger than OSHA predicted, the benefits fewer and the requirements impossible to comply with.

"And they’re always wrong.

"A 1995 study by the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) of the accuracy of the cost-benefit analysis conducted on several OSHA regulations looked at several OSHA standards that had been in effect for a number of years to determine the accuracy of cost and benefit estimates conducted by OSHA and the regulated industries. The study showed that not only does industry grossly overestimate expected costs (big surprise), but even OSHA routinely overestimated the costs and underestimated the benefits of standards. OTA found that part of the reason that OSHA overestimates costs is that the agency fails to take into account the ingenuity of American industry.  American businesses have been particularly good at developing new technologies that are much more cost effective and efficient than OSHA had predicted."

Silica's health effects

About 2.3 million workers are exposed to silica in their workplaces, including 2 million construction workers. Occupational exposures to respirable crystalline silica are associated with the development of silicosis, lung cancer, pulmonary tuberculosis, and airways diseases. These exposures may also be related to the development of autoimmune disorders, chronic renal disease, and other adverse health effects.  

OSHA’s Silica standard, which updated a 1971 standard, was issued over a year ago. The agency estimated that it will save over 600 lives and prevent more than 900 new cases of silicosis each year and provide net benefits of about $7.7 billion, annually.

OSHA had been working on the standards since the late 1990’s.  The Department of Labor had been concerned about silica exposure since the 1930s, and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recommended as far back as 1974 that exposure limits be reduced to the current level.

160 worker deaths

“The labor movement has fought for decades to win this lifesaving rule, and any further delay is unacceptable, said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “The longer the Trump administration delays, the more workers will suffer and die. This action alone will lead to an additional 160 worker deaths. We will do everything possible to make sure this commonsense rule is not taken away. Workers’ lives are at stake.”