Posted June 23, 2017
Washington, DC—Following is a statement from Christine Owens, Executive Director, National Employment Law Project:
“Once again, the Trump administration’s Labor Department is taking us backwards and undermining the core principle that no worker should have to sacrifice his or her life for a job.
“Today, at the behest of corporate special interests, the Labor Department issued a proposed rule to loosen health protections for workers exposed to the chemical beryllium. The result will be more debilitating lung diseases, cancers, and deaths for workers who are exposed to this highly toxic substance.
“Back in January, the Labor Department announced, after four years of study, that a wide range of workers, including those in the shipyard and construction industries, have the potential for significant exposure to beryllium. To protect workers, consistent with its legal authority, OSHA set the lowest exposure standards that were technologically and economically feasible. But because beryllium is highly toxic, the Labor Department knew that workers could still get sick at these exposure limits. So it put into place additional protections—such as medical surveillance of workers near but below the exposure limit—to ensure that any diseases were caught at the early stages. The Labor Department initially projected that these additional protections would save 96 lives per year and prevent 46 new cases of disease.
“Today, the Trump administration proposed abandoning those critical lifesaving protections—including medical surveillance, medical removal protection, housekeeping, protective equipment, and more—in the shipyard and construction industries, which will mean more workers harmed or even killed by preventable disease. The Labor Department also is delaying its enforcement of the entire beryllium standard in these industries until further notice, putting workers who were supposed to have protections in early 2018 at risk indefinitely. All told, the administration is further rigging a system against workers and is all too willing to sacrifice workers’ health to protect corporate ledgers.”