The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia rejected objections raised about OSHA’s newly enacted silica standard, which means the new silica rule is here to stay and employers need to be compliant.
On Dec. 22, 2017, the three-judge panel rejected all objections that had been raised by various industry stakeholders, according to EHS Today.
More than 2 million workers are exposed to silica each year in the U.S., putting workers at risk for silicosis, lung cancer, COPD, and kidney disease. The new standard became effective in June 2016, with enforcement beginning in September 2017.
LET SCT ANSWER YOUR SILICA QUESTIONS!
At SCT, we offer updated training courses to bring you up to speed with all of the new rules and regulations. Representatives from SCT will be at the World of Concrete 2018 trade show with Diamond Products Limited, an industry leader in diamond drilling and cutting tools and equipment. SCT’s safety and industrial health representatives will be answering questions about silica during Diamond Products drilling and cutting demonstration workshops.
What were the objections to the new silica rule?
Industry groups raised five objections to the rule:
- whether limiting workers’ silica exposure to the level set by the new rule reduces a significant risk of worker health impairment
- whether the rule is technologically feasible for the foundry, hydraulic fracturing and construction industries
- whether the rule is economically feasible for the foundry, hydraulic fracturing, and construction industries
- whether OSHA violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) in enacting the rule
- whether substantial evidence supports two ancillary provisions of the rule—one that allows workers who undergo medical examinations to keep the results confidential from their employers and one that prohibits employers from using dry cleaning methods unless doing so is infeasible. We reject all of Industry’s challenges.
Unions asked for review of two parts of the rule:
- the requirement that medical surveillance for construction workers be provided only if the employee has to wear a respirator for 30 days for one employer in a one-year period
- the absence of medical removal protections (MRPs)
Medical removal protections often require employers to maintain a worker’s normal earnings, rights and benefits. The court rejected the challenge to the 30-day trigger, but concluded that OSHA did not fully explain the absence of MRPs.
In its conclusion, the court rejected all of the challenges to the silica rule with three exceptions. The court held that OSHA was “arbitrary and capricious in declining to require MRP for some period” when a medical professional:
- recommends permanent removal of a worker
- recommends temporary removal to alleviate a worker’s COPD symptoms
- recommends temporary removal of a worker pending a specialist’s determination
In a news release, National Council for Occupational Safety and Health Co-Executive Director Jessica Martinez supported the court’s decision.
“This is a huge win for millions of workers in construction, foundries, mining, shipbuilding and many other industries. Low-wage workers and those in the informal sector can now be assured of safer working conditions.”