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Worker safety rule has been excessively delayed

We have previously written about why it is critically important for New York employers to fix safety hazards promptly. Failure to do so can result in completely preventable workplace injuries.

Unfortunately, employers are not the only ones who should heed advice about acting swiftly to prevent injuries in the workplace. Just over a year ago, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a rule proposal focused on workplace exposure to crystalline silica. More than a year later, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) has yet to act on this proposal.

Crystalline silica is a known carcinogen and has been linked to other severe illnesses which can be fatal. Millions of American workers inhale this substance each year, while engaging in mining, construction work and sandblasting. Hundreds of workers die each year from exposure-related illnesses, including silicosis.

Worker exposure is a serious issue that demands attention by federal regulators. However, despite an OIRA policy which gives the body 90 days to review proposed rules, it has yet to act upon OSHA's recommendations.

As a result of this delay, hundreds of safety advocates, occupational health experts and labor officials have called upon the White House to insist that OIRA release the proposed rule for public comment. The new rule would update standards for crystalline silica exposure, among other measures.

The proposed rule was only written after years of research and data review had been completed. This rule and other delayed safety considerations should be acted upon swiftly. It is not only employers who have a responsibility to protect workers. The government bodies which regulate worker safety should also avoid excessive delay in protecting the nation's employees from illness and injury.

Source: OMB Watch, "Worker Safety Rule Under Review at OIRA for Over a Year: A Tale of Rulemaking Delay," Feb. 22, 2012

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