OSHA’s silica regulations will save construction workers’ lives

How can The Hill run an op-ed about an OSHA standard that never once mentions the fact that the substance the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is regulating — silica — kills or cripples thousands of workers every year? 

Pamela Volm, the national chair of the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), is obviously concerned about only one thing: the profit margin for her business and others like hers (“Regulatory reform that works for the ‘real world’ of construction,” June 24). The workers’ lives are their own problem — not hers.

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The closest Ms. Volm gets to addressing the hazards of breathing in silica dust all day while drilling, cutting or grinding rock, pouring sand, making bricks or doing dozens of other tasks that involve prolonged exposure is the following: “Silica is a naturally occurring substance found in sand, quartz and many construction materials including asphalt, bricks, concrete, stone and tile.” So, it’s natural! Why is OSHA bothering businesses with rules and new costs?

Silica dust is a killer, slowly choking off the breathing of workers who have been overexposed, and it causes lung cancer as well. Twenty-five years ago, I met a construction worker with a respirator who looked like he was 90 years old. He was 55, but he was dying from silicosis, a disease whose cause — exposure to silica dust — has been known for thousands of years. He told the congressman I worked for about working covered in dust as he sanded drywall, wearing no protection but a paper mask. His raspy voice strained as he asked the congressman to pass a law to make sure no one else suffered the way he was suffering.

But Ms. Volm wants your readers to think this is a “power grab” by OSHA for no purpose other than imposing costly rules without adequate consideration. What a joke. OSHA has been considering updating its silica dust rules for decades, and the agency’s current proposal was reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget and the White House for more than two years after OSHA presented it.

When hundreds of construction workers are ill or dying from silicosis every year, it’s clear that the ABC could better spend its time helping its members meet their statutory duty “to furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.” Avoiding compliance costs and paying lobbyists to block OSHA’s regulation is not an obvious path on the way to meeting that duty.

From Ross Eisenbrey, vice president, Economic Policy Institute, Washington, D.C.


Obama's speech eloquent, but fails to mention drawbacks of ACA

I listened to President Obama’s speech after the Supreme Court upheld his position on the Affordable Care Act. As usual, our president delivered an emotional, very well delivered oration; however, while he skillfully spoke of his perceived “good” of the ACA, he conveniently omitted many other relevant factors. 

He compared ObamaCare’s significance to two other plans that have been available to Americans for decades — Social Security and Medicare — but totally avoided any reference to the fact that both of these programs are not fiscally sound. Other glaring omissions were any reference to already rising costs and the promises not kept that were originally made, such as keeping your doctor/plan, saving everyone $2,500 per year, etc. 

As usual, our government has opted to promise more than it can deliver, with absolutely zero concern as to the long-range impact on the taxpayers. 

From Tom Tyschper, Gilbert, Ariz.