OSHA Issues New Silica Exposure Regulation

Date: March 25, 2016 Last Edit: March 28, 2016

NFIB, Other Business Groups Decry Rule As Costly, Burdensome

On Thursday the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued its final regulation decreasing the permissible level of worker exposure to silica, a sometimes deadly dust, often found on construction and manufacturing sites. The Wall Street Journal reports that although silica-related injuries and deaths have decreased over the past 45 years under existing rules, business groups attribute this to personal protective equipment and employer improvements and say the current risks do not justify the new regulation, which they claim will be too costly. The new rules would set silica exposures limits at 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air, averaged over an 8-hour shift. The Chicago Tribune reports that while the finalized silica dust exposure rules “are drawing criticism from some industry employer groups that say they are costly, time-consuming and irrelevant, given steep drops in silica-related disease,” representatives of workers “applaud the move.” Reuters reports that industry groups have promised they will fight OSHA’s new silica regulation, saying the rules are unwarranted and will cost billions of dollars.

What Happens Next

The rules will not take effect right away, but businesses planning months in advance will soon see the negative effects of these regulations on their bottom lines. The Business Journals states that while construction companies will have until July 2017 to comply with the new regulations, other industries will have until June 2018 to comply.

What This Means For Small Businesses

Small businesses will bear the brunt of the new silica rules. The Hill reported that NFIB “estimates the rule will cost industry $7.2 billion a year to comply with, which could lead to 27,000 job cuts over the next decade.” Small businesses can ill-afford such a major hit to their bottom lines, nor can the US economy afford to shed valuable jobs as it struggles to grow.

Additional Reading

The International Business Times also reports on OSHA’s announcement and the opposition to the new regulations from various business groups.

Note: this article is intended to keep small business owners up on the latest news. It does not necessarily represent the policy stances of NFIB.

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