Appeals court rejects industry challenges to OSHA silica rule

Appeals court rejects industry challenges to OSHA silica rule
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The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District Columbia on Friday rejected industry challenges to a 2016 U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rule aimed at protecting U.S. workers from exposure to silica. 

The rule, issued by the Obama administration, was designed to protect workers workers in the maritime and construction industries, who are frequently exposed to silica dust. The rule had been in the works for years, but was repeatedly delayed by opposition from industry groups.


Business groups including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce sued over the rule, questioning whether there was enough evidence support the claim that limiting the worker's exposure to the chemical would reduce health risks, among other things.

"We reject all of Industry's challenges," the court wrote.

“To mount a successful attack on OSHA’s feasibility finding, then, challengers must do more than suggest that compliance will be infeasible for some firms or in 'a few isolated operations,' ” the court said. 

The case was heard by Judge Merrick GarlandMerrick GarlandOvernight Defense: Biden officially rolls out Afghanistan withdrawal plan | Probe finds issues with DC Guard helicopter use during June protests Duckworth asks DOJ to probe 'brazenly violent' police treatment of National Guard officer Biden's court-packing theater could tame the Supreme Court's conservatives MORE, who was unsuccessfully nominated by President Obama to the Supreme Court, and judges Karen Henderson and David Tatel. Henderson was appointed by President George H.W. Bush, while Tatel was appointed by President Clinton.

The appeals court also ruled on separate challenges to the rule from labor unions.

Unions contested a provision that states workers would receive medical surveillance only if employees wore a respirator for 30 days for one employer in a one-year period. The unions also challenged the absence of various medical removal protections.

While the appeals court rejected the challenge to the medical surveillance provision, it ordered OSHA to take a second look at additional safety rules.

"We reject the Unions’ challenge to the construction standard’s 30-day trigger for medical surveillance. We conclude that OSHA failed to adequately explain its decision to omit medical removal protections from the Rule and remand for further consideration of the issue," the court said.