Circuit Court Rules on OSHA Silica Standard

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit recently issued a ruling that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) could proceed with a respirable crystalline silica standard enacted in 2016.

The Court did not give weight to studies that have shown that the aggregates industry’s compliance with current regulations has been effective in reducing and appropriately monitoring silica exposure to workers. Silica is the second most common mineral in the world and found abundantly in nature, and despite the fact that silica-related illnesses have dropped dramatically the past four decades, the rule reduces the workplace exposure limit by half from 100 micrograms per cubic meter to 50 micrograms per cubic meter over an eight-hour work shift.

“While the majority of NSSGA members’ operations are not directly affected by the ruling, we are disappointed with the disproportionate importance granted to the agency’s positions by the DC District Court,” said Michael W. Johnson, NSSGA president and CEO. “We maintain that OSHA ignored a substantial body of science-based evidence—including studies by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—that full compliance with the 1972 workplace exposure limit protects worker health. It’s also clear that OSHA selected woefully outdated information to justify its economic and technical feasibility assessment.”

NSSGA has shown that objective evidence demonstrates that many commercial laboratories that analyze workplace air samples do not consistently provide the analytical accuracy at this lower limit. Johnson said that NSSGA will continue to pursue policies that are based on the best available science and that protect the health and safety of aggregates industry workers.

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