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Congress Must Stop Attacking Silica Standards That Save Workers’ Lives

April 18, 2016

Congress Must Stop Attacking Silica Standards That Save Workers’ Lives

Statement of Emily Gardner, Worker Health and Safety Advocate for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch Division

Note: On Tuesday, the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Workforce Protections will hold a hearing on the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA’s) final rule to protect workers from silica.

Not one more worker should have to die from silica due to politics. Yet in spite of the innumerable benefits of safeguarding workers from silicosis and other deadly silica-related hazards, House Republicans and industry lobbyists are attacking this lifesaving rule. According to OSHA, the rule will save the lives of more than 600 workers and prevent more than 900 new cases of silicosis each year. In addition, the final rule is expected to generate net benefits of $7.7 billion each year.

But instead of joining workers and employers across the country in celebrating the long-overdue silica rule (PDF), corporate lobbyists are alleging that the rule will be too burdensome for businesses to implement. In reality, some profitable and successful businesses are supporting the safer silica standards. In fact, some of the equipment needed to shield workers from this deadly dust is sold at neighborhood hardware stores.

The truth is that the silica rule gives employers the ability to choose between different compliance options – options that they should have implemented decades ago. Instead of rolling back worker health and safety reforms, lawmakers should live up to their responsibility to protect workers from preventable workplace illnesses and deaths.