Advocacy Groups Upset By Silicosis Regulation Delay

Groups that advocate for worker safety are expressing concern about a delay by the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in implementing a rule that limits worker exposure to silica dust. Exposure to silica has been shown to cause a potentially fatal respiratory disease caused silicosis. While the standard review period is 90 days, the silica dust issue has been under review for over a year. Even though it is not unprecedented for the OMB to add an additional 30 to 45 day period for additional review and public comment, many are upset by the unexplained delay. In an effort to draw attention to the unusually long pause in the review process and to pressure the OMB for action, a letter of protest was sent to the White House which was endorsed by 300 advocates of safety in the workplace. In addition to the long delay, another reason that worker safety groups are expressing concern is the fact that several industry groups, including the National Association of Home Builders, the National Industrial Sand Association, and the American Chemistry Council, have held private meetings at the White House during the delayed review period. Workplace advocates are upset about the lack of transparency concerning the agenda of the numerous private meetings with industry groups who have a financial incentive to weaken the proposed silica regulations. The Union of Concerned Scientists expressed concern that political considerations were being given more weight than scientific ones, and released a statement openly questioning whether the Obama Administration was falling into what they felt was a tendency of the Bush Administration to delay and weaken proposed OMB regulations in areas like formaldehyde emissions in the production of plywood and climate change. In their statement, the UCS reminded the White House that “The Bush administration’s OMB was caught several times weakening, delaying, or outright stopping science-based rules on many topics, including exposure to asbestos, ground-level ozone pollution, endangered species, formaldehyde emissions during plywood production, particulate matter, and the impact of climate change on public health.” Continuing to allow occupational hazards such as exposure to asbestos and silica dust can lead to fatal illnesses and disease such as a rare form of cancer known as mesothelioma. Adding to the frustration of workplace advocates is the earlier delay by the OMB of a rule regulating minors performing hazardous jobs on farms, that was inexplicably delayed for 9 months instead of 90 days. Sadly, the ultimate implementation of the rule was too late to save two Illinois teenagers who were electrocuted doing jobs that have since been banned. Many see parallels with the current silicosis delay based on a report by the group Public Citizen which states that the year long delay in the implementation of the silicosis regulations may have already cost 60 people their lives. Reference:
  • Elk, Mike. (February 2, 2012). “White House Delays Another Workplace Rule That Could Save Lives.” Retrieved on February 17, 2012, from In These Times.
Previous: Italian Court Convicts Duo For 2,200 Counts Of Asbestos Exposure Next: $322 million asbestos verdict may be largest ever