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Latest OSHA Ruling Fraught with Controversy

The National Association of Manufacturing calls OSHA's silica ruling "fundamentally flawed," but Secretary of Labor Tom Perez says existing laws are inadequate in protecting workers.

OSHA has issued its long awaited rule on silica exposure in the workplace, and the reviews are mixed.

About 2.3 million people in the U. S. are exposed to fine grains of silica on the job; inhaling the dust is one of the oldest known workplace hazards. Silica scars the lungs, causing diseases like silicosis and cancer, and OSHA’s new measure dramatically reduces the exposure of workers to silica in industries such as construction, certain manufacturing segments, and fracking.

But the National Association of Manufacturing is none too happy, calling the ruling “fundamentally flawed.” In a statement, NAM CEO and President Jay Timmons said OSHA ignored the input of the manufacturing community, which will result in a regulation that costs billions and that, according to NAM, was supported by out-of-date economic data.

A representative of the American Chemistry Council says that the current number of silicosis cases could be virtually eliminated if industries consistently complied with existing limits – suggesting that OSHA should focus more on enforcement of existing regulations, rather than creating new ones.

But Secretary of Labor Tom Perez says the existing rule that limits a worker's exposure to silica dust hasn't been changed since the early 1970s and that research shows that, even then, the exposure limit didn't offer adequate protection.

OSHA says that once the law is fully in effect, it should save around 600 lives, and prevent more than 900 cases of silicosis, every year.

I’m Anna Wells, and this is IEN Now.

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