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Statement of AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka on the Issuance of OSHA’s Proposed Silica Standard

The AFL-CIO welcomes today’s release of OSHA’s proposed silica standard. This rule when finalized will help protect more than 2 million workers exposed to this deadly dust and save hundreds of workers lives each year. It is particularly important for workers in construction, foundries, shipyards and in oil and gas drilling who face the highest exposures.

This rule is long overdue. The development of the silica standard began more than 16 years ago.  Meanwhile workers have continued to suffer unnecessary disease and death.

Silica dust is a killer. It causes silicosis a disabling lung disease that literally suffocates workers to death. It also causes lung cancer and other diseases. 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.

But this new standard will. The proposed rule will cut permitted dust exposure levels in half, require exposure monitoring and medical exams for exposed workers and require the implementation of well-established dust control methods, like the use of water and ventilation.

But this rule is 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 does not happen. We urge the Obama administration to continue moving forward with the public rulemaking process without delay. The final silica rule should be issued as fast as humanly possible, to protect the health and lives of American workers.

Contact: Amaya Tune: 202-637-5018

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