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Much ado about the proposed — and delayed — silica rule

silica-dust-ruleAs you all know well by now, today is the two-year anniversary of the proposed silica rule, which would protect workers from exposure to dangerous levels of silica dust on the job, being sent to the Office of Management and Budget’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA). Unfortunately, in those two years, nothing has happened on the regulatory level. OIRA was supposed to review the proposed rule in 90 days. It has now been 730.

National COSH and its allies have turned up the noise on OIRA and let the agency know that it’s time to pass the rule.

We wrote an op-ed in The Charleston Gazette, highlighting that the dangers of silica exposure are nothing new and is one of the oldest-known causes of work-related lung disease.

“The recognition of respiratory problems from breathing in dust dates to ancient Greeks and Romans,” wrote National COSH’s Tom O’Connor. “Silica exposure, specifically, has been on the books in the U.S. since the early 1900s. Francis Perkins, who served as the U.S. Secretary of Labor in the Roosevelt administration and after whom the current Labor Department headquarters is named, convened a National Conference to Stop Silicosis in 1938. Yet, we still fail to protect workers from dangerous levels of silica dust. What will it take for OIRA to review a rule that could protect our workers from this known hazard?”

We issued a press release  that recalled the number of workers who have been sickened or killed by work-related silica exposure in the time since OIRA received the proposal, and talked about the bureaucratic history of the proposed rule.

“In the two years that a proposed rule to protect workers from exposure to dangerous levels of silica dust on the job has been held up by the White House, more than 100 workers have died and thousands have been sickened by preventable exposure to silica dust,” O’Connor wrote.

We worked with partners to drive a “Twitter storm,” using the hashtags #silica and #OSHA to pressure OIRA (through @OMBPress) to promulgate the rule. Through the tweets, we directed people to previous blog posts, historic videos, and other information about the silica rule and how they can help. Our friends at Public Citizen and the Center for Effective Government have petitions calling for OIRA to act — add your signature now.

Thanks for all of your help in highlighting this anniversary, but our work is not over. Each year that OIRA sits on the rule, hundreds of workers die and thousands more are sickened by preventable silica exposure. We must keep pressure on the Obama administration to promulgate rules that would protect the lives of millions of American workers.