The White House Should Allow Public Debate on OSHA’s Silica Rule

Feb. 14, 2012

The White House Should Allow Public Debate on OSHA’s Silica Rule

Delay Has Resulted in Dozens of Excessive Deaths, Thousands of Preventable Silicosis Cases

WASHINGTON, D.C. – One year ago today, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) submitted a proposal to the White House that would update the standard that protects workers from exposure to crystalline silica dust. Although the review should have concluded after 45 days, the proposal remains at the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

Two million workers are exposed to potentially hazardous levels of silica dust, mostly in the construction and sandblasting industries. Inhaling the dust causes lung cancer and silicosis, a debilitating lung disease. OSHA’s current silica dust rule, issued in 1971, allows workers to be exposed at levels far exceeding those considered safe.

“OMB is holding these rules up for reasons that mostly are political,” said Justin Feldman, worker health and safety advocate with Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. “Although President Barack Obama called for transparency and public participation in government, OMB is not allowing the public comment period to begin and instead has held nine closed-door meetings, mostly with industry lobbyists who want nothing more than to kill the rule.”

Added Amit Narang, regulatory policy advocate with Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division, “Unfortunately, OMB’s apparent resistance to this rule has made a bad situation even worse. Given the excessive importance that OMB places on cost-benefit analysis, it’s disappointing to see officials ignore the real, everyday costs to workers’ health that has resulted from its delay of this important, new silica standard.”

According to OSHA’s risk assessment, the silica dust rule could have prevented 60 worker deaths and 2,400 cases of silicosis in the last year. OMB should move quickly to finish its review and initiate a public comment period to prevent further deaths.

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Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. For more information, please visit www.citizen.org.