In recent years the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has been slower to update and create workplace safety regulations in comparison to years past. The safety of workers in many industries in Pennsylvania depends on the reformulation of safety regulations as new information comes to light. One such area is the regulation of jobs that involve the use of silica.
In April the Government Accountability Office reported that it now takes OSHA approximately eight years to issue a health or safety standard. Since 2000, the federal safety agency has only issued 11 regulations including updates to prior rules. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s the agency produced twice as many regulations. Some believe potential regulations get held up in the bureaucratic pipeline. For example, the White House Office of Management and Budget reviews proposed rules, but proposed regulations can get held up for months instead of the procedural maximum of 90 days. A rule that would update safety procedures surrounding the use of silica has been under review for over one year. In the mean time, workers can suffer fatal injury.
Silica is a mineral and damages the lungs when it is ground up and inhaled by construction, mining and foundry workers. Silica is classified as a human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer and yet the rules that regulate positions involving its use and exposure date from the early 1970s. OSHA plans to publish an updated rule on silica exposure that would restrict the amount of silica exposure to one half of what it is now and would require companies to pay for exposure assessments, dust-control equipment, health screenings and respirators. But, the new limit may not be enough. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the new, more restrictive limit is still not sufficient to be protective over a lifetime of exposure to silica.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates between 3,600 and 7,300 cases of silicosis occur each year. While the number has declined, many workers are still exposed to intense amounts of silica, especially young workers. An experienced workplace injury attorney can address injury concerns that an exposed worker may have.
Source: iwatchnews.org, “OSHA Rules on Workplace Toxics Stalled,” Jim Morris, June 4, 2012