Washington – OSHA has released its final rule
on protecting workers from exposure to silica
, marking the agency’s first updated regulation for the material since 1971.
The agency estimates that the rule will save more than 600 lives and prevent more than 900 cases of silicosis – an incurable lung disease – each year. The rule also is intended to help protect against lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and kidney disease.
The new permissible exposure limit for respirable crystalline silica – 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air averaged during an 8-hour shift – matches what NIOSH recommended in 1974. OSHA’s new PEL is half the previous limit for general industry and 5 times lower than the previous limit for construction.
“Unfortunately, it has taken over 40 years for the politics to catch up with the science,” Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez said during a March 24 press conference. “In the meantime, the industry has changed, technology has progressed, businesses have innovated. A good government also adapts, even if it’s long overdue.” [read full story