Sixteen years ago, federal workplace safety officials began developing a rule to control and limit workers’ exposure to silica dust. Some 2 million workers are exposed to this deadly dust each year and, according to public health experts, more than 7,000 workers develop silicosis and 200 die each year as a result of this disabling lung disease.
Today, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) finally issued a proposed rule. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka says the new rule was welcome but calls the proposed standard “long overdue” and notes that the rule is still only a proposal.
Workers exposed to silica dust will only be protected when a final rule is issued. Some industry groups are certain to attack the rule and try to stop it in its tracks. The AFL-CIO will do everything we can to see that this does not happen. We urge the Obama administration to continue moving forward with the public rule-making process without delay. The final silica rule should be issued as fast as humanly possible, to protect the health and lives of American workers
Silicosis literally suffocates workers to death. It also causes lung cancer and other diseases. Says Trumka:
Silica dust is a killer.
The current OSHA silica standard was adopted decades ago and fails to protect workers. It allows very high levels of exposure and has no requirements to train workers or monitor exposure levels. Simply enforcing the current rule, as some in industry have called for, won’t protect workers.
The silica dust rule is one of many vital workplace safety rules that are in a rule-making process that, AFL-CIO Safety and Health Director Peg Seminario told a U.S. Senate committee earlier this month, is:
A broken and dysfunctional system, which is failing to protect workers and costing workers’ lives.