By Tim Devaney - 12/21/15 04:55 PM EST
The Obama administration is moving forward with long-delayed rules intended to protect workers from exposure to harmful silica dust.
The Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) confirmed Monday that it has sent the rules to the White House for final approval, a step that comes after years of delays.
"In the nearly 20 years since the fight began to win a new silica standard to protect workers, thousands have become disabled or died from exposure to silica dust,” said Peg Seminario, the AFL-CIO’s director of safety and health. "But now the finish line is finally in sight."
The silica rule is intended to protect construction and manufacturing workers from exposure to silica dust, which has been linked to serious health problems, including cancer.
The contents of the final rule have not yet been made public, but the proposed rules from August 2013 aimed to cut silica exposure in half to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air.
Labor groups say the stronger silica protections are long overdue, with the debate over the standards dating back to the 1970s.
Business groups say the rules are unnecessary and could increase the regulatory costs for industry.
The move by the Labor Department to finish the standards comes as President Obama enters the last year of his tenure, with the White House eyeing the use of executive power to burnish his legacy.