Description: After delaying enforcement for months, the Department of Labor announced that it would begin enforcing in the construction industry a final rule on Occupational Exposure to Crystalline Silica. This Obama administration rule lowered workers’ permissible exposure limit to deadly crystalline silica dust. The rule is comprised of two permissible exposure standards, one for Construction and one for General Industry and Maritime. The rule became effective June 23, 2016, and enforcement was to originally scheduled to begin on June 23, 2017, but was delayed by the Trump administration. OSHA announced that it will begin enforcing most provisions of the standard for construction on September 23, 2017, and will begin enforcing most provisions of the standard for general industry and maritime on June 23, 2018.
Fair Economy Impact: The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued this rule to reduce workers’ exposure to cancer-causing respirable crystalline silica. Studies have linked exposure to silica to lung cancer, silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and kidney disease. About 2.3 million workers are exposed to respirable crystalline silica in their workplaces, including 2 million construction workers who drill, cut, crush, or grind silica-containing materials such as concrete and stone. Responsible employers have been protecting workers from harmful exposure to silica for years, using widely-available equipment that controls silica dust with a simple water spray to wet the dust down, or a vacuum system to contain the dust. OSHA estimates that the rule will save over 600 lives and prevent more than 900 new cases of silicosis each year, once its effects are fully realized. It is past time for the Trump administration to start taking workers’ sides by enforcing this rule to protect working people’s lives and livelihoods.