OSHA Issues Updated Rule Protecting Workers from Deadly Silica Dust

Statement from Deborah Berkowitz, senior fellow on worker safety and health with the National Employment Law Project, on OSHA’s announcement of updated worker safety and health protections relating to silica dust.

“The National Employment Law Project applauds the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration for issuing the long-awaited standard to better protect workers from hazardous exposure to silica dust.


“Every year, silica dust kills hundreds of workers; hundreds more are made ill.  Silica dust causes cancer and silicosis—an incurable and too often fatal lung disease.  The protections announced today update the 40-year-old standard that OSHA had been enforcing—an outdated standard that was based on even more outdated science, and that endangered workers’ health and their lives.

“Today, a full 19 years after OSHA first began the rulemaking, an updated standard will finally be in place to protect millions of workers in construction, manufacturing, and fracking who are exposed to deadly silica dust.  This updated standard, with its flexible alternatives for compliance in the construction industry, will save lives.

“The simple fact of the matter is that disease and death from silica dust exposure can be prevented.  Common dust-control methods such as applying water to control the dust, or adding ventilation, can substantially reduce the amount of dust.

“In 2013, more workers died from silicosis and silica-related diseases than from explosions, being caught in or crushed by collapsing materials, or being caught in running equipment or machinery.  Workers should not have to sacrifice their health, and ultimately their lives, for a paycheck.”

Read the final rule in the Federal Register.
Read USDOL’s news release.
More information at OSHA’s website.


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About the Author

Deborah Berkowitz

Worker Health and Safety Program Director, National Employment Law Project

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