OSHA’s new silica dust rule upheld in U.S. Court of Appeals

Updated Aug 22, 2018
Photo: New Jersey Department of HealthPhoto: New Jersey Department of Health

On December 22, 2017, a three-judge panel of the U.S Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected challenges to a 2016 Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rule toughening workers’ exposure levels for silica dust, Engineering News-Record reports.

The panel said OSHA had met legal requirements for determining what standards are feasible, economically and technically.

The silica rule reduces the exposure limit from 250 micrograms to 50 micrograms per cubic meter for all industries, including construction. The rule took effect for the construction industry on June 23, 2017, and OSHA began enforcing it on Sept. 23 but allowed a 30-day grace period for companies that were showing “good-faith” efforts to comply with the new rule.

According to the news agency, Chris Cain, director of safety and health for North America’s Building Trades Unions, said the court’s decision was “a huge win for the nation’s construction workers and affirms that OSHA put out a strong, science-based standard.”

“It is disappointing that the appeals court has decided to allow the misguided federal silica rules to proceed despite the many legitimate concerns we and other groups raised about the measure,” said Stephen Sandherr, CEO of the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), one of the groups that challenged the silica rule, according to the news agency. “Today’s decision underscores just how difficult it is to overturn federal regulations, even one as deeply flawed as this measure. That is why we have long cautioned our members to take every possible step to comply with this measure instead of gambling on a long-shot legal victory.”

AGC has not said whether the rule will be appealed further. “We need to review the final ruling more thoroughly before evaluating any possible next legal steps,” said AGC spokesman Brian Turmail in an email, according to the news agency.