House chairman asks OSHA to delay worker safety rule

The head of the House Small Business Committee asked the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to delay a workplace safety rule that has been in the works for years.

Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) said in a letter to the agency on Thursday that small companies need more time to weigh in on the draft rule setting an exposure limit for silica dust, which has been linked to fatal lung disease.

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The 755-page proposed regulation, which was revealed earlier this year, along with a report about how it would affect small businesses, is “a significant amount of information and analysis for small businesses to review,” he wrote.

“Extending the deadlines associated with the rulemaking will help ensure that small businesses and their representatives are able to provide OSHA meaningful comments and data,” he added.

The letter from Graves comes days after the Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy, which looks out for the small businesses’ interests in the regulatory process, asked the agency to give the public more time to comment on the rule. 

Currently, the comment period for the proposed regulation is set to close on Dec. 11, three months after it was published in the Federal Register.

Graves and the Advocacy Office both want OSHA to keep the docket open for an additional 90 days.

Last month, the House committee chairman highlighted the regulation for the public. 

The rule limiting workers’ exposure to silica dust has been in the works for a decade.

Proponents of the rule, who note that it would save nearly 700 lives each year, according to OSHA analysis, say that efforts to delay the rule would just leave workers at construction sites and other industrial workplaces exposed to the dust at risk.

They also add that small-business interests already had a chance to weigh in on the rule while it was still under development at OSHA, due to restrictions that require the agency to survey small-business representatives for some rules.