Another workplace safety rule has been delayed by the Trump administration’s regulation rollback, this time pushing back a new rule reducing silica dust exposure in the workplace and mandating other safety measures to enhance the safety and health of workers in the construction industry.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced April 6 that its crystalline silica standard has been delayed and will take effect Sept. 23 – 90 days past the original effective date of June 23. The agency said the delay will allow “the construction industry to conduct additional outreach and provide educational materials and guidance for employers.”
The new silica regulation updates standards for silica exposure in the construction industry that were originally determined in 1971. The rule cuts in half the maximum silica exposure limits for construction workers from 100 micrograms per cubic meter to 50 and calls for worker medical examinations paid for by the employer.
Silica dust is known to cause lung cancer, pulmonary tuberculosis, silicosis, and diseases of the airway. According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at least 1.7 million U.S. workers are exposed to respirable crystalline silica in a variety of industries and occupations, including construction, sandblasting and mining.
Labor groups support the tighter exposure limit but insist the rule does not go far enough in protecting workers and should include provisions requiring employers to remove workers from dangerous exposure to silica without loss of pay if a doctor finds it necessary.
Construction industry groups oppose the rule, arguing that OSHA lacks “plausible, credible empirical evidence” that the current exposure limit threatens worker health and that lowering the limit would spare workers from lung and airway diseases.
House and Senate Democrats slammed the delay, arguing that doing so puts U.S. construction workers at risk.
“We are disappointed that the Trump administration has chosen to delay this critical protection for workers ahead of the busiest season for construction sites,” House Committee on Education and the Workforce ranking member Bobby Scott and Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee ranking member Patty Murray said in a joint statement.
Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, the largest federation in the U.S., also criticized the delay:
“The labor movement has fought for decades to win this lifesaving rule, and any further delay is unacceptable,” he said.