Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) today expressed concern over an extended delay of an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) proposal to protect construction and other workers from the dangers of silica dust exposure. The draft proposal, which was originally slated for a 90-day review by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), but has been bottled up at OMB for more than two years, revises silica dust exposure limits and puts in place other worker protections that have not been updated for several decades.
Silica has been classified as a human lung carcinogen and is the cause of silicosis, an irreversible, progressive and debilitating disease that can lead to death by suffocation. Workers involved in abrasive blasting, foundry work, stonecutting, rock drilling, quarry work and tunneling are at particular high-risk for silica exposure and development of these diseases. Workers have been operating under OSHA limits that were put in place in the 1960s and do not take into account the growing body of data on the risks of silica exposure or current standard setting technologies. Workplace safety experts say that the current OSHA silica dust exposure limits need to be cut in half to adequately protect workers.
"These needed worker protections have been collecting dust at OMB, even as silica dust has been collecting in the lungs of workers," said Rep. Markey. "We must prevent any many more workers from being sickened by this known carcinogen."
In a letter sent to Jeffrey Zients, the Acting Director of OMB, Rep. Markey calls on OMB to "release this proposed rule immediately so that workers can finally receive the protections that they urgently need and deserve."
The release of the draft proposal from OMB is the last step before public comment. After the public comment period is closed OSHA can move forward with finalizing and implementing the rule, a process which can take an additional year or more.