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OSHA delays enforcement of silica rule (UPDATE)

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration will delay enforcement of its new silica exposure rule, the federal agency announced on Thursday.

Handed down last spring when President Barack Obama occupied the Oval Office, the OSHA regulation further limited workers’ exposure to respirable silica to 50 micrograms for every cubic meter of air during an eight-hour period.

Originally set to begin June 23, enforcement of the rule is being pushed back to Sept. 23. In a news release, OSHA officials said the delay would give the agency more time to conduct more outreach and provide more guidance to employers.

Although the rule was delayed, the agency said it expects employers to still work toward coming under compliance with not only the exposure limit, but other regulations that are part of the new rule. This includes new exposure assessments, medical surveillance and employee training.

Jessica Martinez, co-executive director of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, on Friday slammed the proposed delay to the silica rule.

In a written statement, Martinez said that although the delay is only by three months, it comes at a time when construction season will be in full swing, meaning that 2 million construction workers will potentially be exposed to dangerous levels of silica dust.

“It is backed by solid scientific evidence and the experience of workers who have suffered cancer, silicosis and other life-threatening diseases,” she said. “There is no reason for delaying this rule, which will save more 600 lives each year.”

The delay comes after President Donald Trump approved two resolutions by Congress to block other federal regulations handed down by the Obama administration. The “Volks” rule, the most recent to be blocked, would have extended the time period that OSHA could issue citations to employers, while the “blacklisting” rule would have required contractors bidding for certain federal projects to disclose any labor-law violations they’ve had in the past three years.

About Alex Zank, alex.zank@dailyreporter.com

Alex Zank is a construction reporter for The Daily Reporter. He can be reached at 414-225-1820.

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