OSHA set to issue silica rule

The Labor Department is preparing to issue controversial silica protections for workers.

After years of delay, the Labor Department could finalize the silica rules as early as this week, after they were quietly approved by the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on Monday.

One source speculated the Labor Department will announce the silica rule on Thursday.

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The final rules have not yet been revealed to the public, but the proposed regulation called for manufacturers to cut in half workers’s exposure to silica dust, which has been linked to cancer.

The Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is facing criticism from all sides — unions, industry, and workplace safety and health groups — over the silica rule.

Labor, safety, and health groups say the silica rules have been on hold for far too long, but industry officials say they will stifle business.

The silica rules have not been updated since they were originally issued in the 1970s, sources say.

OSHA sent the proposed rule to the White House in February 2011, but waited more than two years for the OMB to complete its review. After a lengthy comment period and a series of public hearings, the rule was sent back to the White House last December.

Now that the OMB has approved the final rule, OSHA is free to release it at any time.

Amit Narang, the regulatory director at the left-leaning Public Citizen, called the delay “worrisome.”

“This rule is badly outdated,” he said. 

“Everyone who has worked on this issue has been frustrated by the delays and the slowness of the process,” said Peg Seminario, the AFL-CIO’s director of safety and health. “But we’re thrilled that it’s finally coming out."

The Labor Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.