A letter to President Obama questions a significant delay in the federal regulatory process for a proposed revision to OSHA’s silica rule.
The letter from more than 300 public health scientists, doctors and occupational safety experts notes that almost a year ago, OSHA sent its proposal on occupational exposure to crystalline silica to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review, as required by law.
However, an executive order issued by President Obama limits the amount of time that OMB is supposed to take to review any proposal to 120 days. Soon, the amount of time OMB has had the proposal will be three times that.
The letter says the delay “leaves workers at significant risk of disease and death.”
An estimated 1.7 million U.S. workers are exposed to silica. Public health experts say about 200 workers die each year from silicosis, a respiratory disease caused by inhaling silica dust. There are as many as 7,300 new cases of silicosis each year. Overexposure to silica is also associated with lung cancer, chronic renal disease and autoimmune disorders.
“We urge you (President Obama) to intervene immediately to direct OMB to complete its review of the OSHA proposed silica rule,” the letter states, “so the public rulemaking on this important worker health standard can begin, and a final standard to protect workers from silica can be issued without further undue delay.”
This isn’t the first call for action on the silica proposal. At its December meeting, the National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health (NACOSH) called on OSHA to adopt new regulations for crystalline silica.
The American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) sent a letter (downloadable PDF here) to Labor Secretary Hilda Solis in November 2011 encouraging OMB to release the silica rule. In a press release about the letter, the AIHA said, “We feel that extending review of the silica standard is an unacceptable attempt to ‘short circuit’ the existing process and may make it unusually vulnerable to political influence.”
The Obama administration has received criticism for wanting to enact too many new federal regulations.
Do you think the delay in revising the silica standard is politically motivated? Should the standard be updated? Let us know what you think in the comments below.