For more than 2 years, OSHA’s proposed revisions to its silica standard have languished with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) – a period stretching long past the standard 90-day OMB review period. The Laborers' International Union of North America (LIUNA) recently called for progress on the standard and created a petition asking for immediate action to protect workers from occupational silica exposure.

In the 2 years since OSHA submitted its draft proposed rule to OMB in February 2011, safety stakeholders repeatedly have urged OMB to finish its review. Completing the review process and releasing the proposal for publication is just the first step in a lengthy review process, LIUNA stressed.

OSHA rulemaking requires public hearings and extensive opportunities for public input. Some industry and business groups have opposed the standard, citing concerns related to cost, how the rule would be structured and whether adequate monitoring techniques are available.

Workplace Exposure and Silicosis

Overexposure to silica has been linked to silicosis, an irreversible, progressive lung disease. It is also associated with lung cancer, chronic renal disease and autoimmune disorders. An estimated 1.7 million U.S. workers are exposed to this serious hazard. Public health experts estimate that 280 workers die each year from silicosis and thousands more develop silicosis as a result of workplace exposures.

LIUNA is calling on its half-million members, along with the public, to sign a petition on the White House Web site. “It is about time to move forward and promulgate a silica standard to protect American workers,” the petition reads.

"I am encouraging our members and concerned citizens across America to sign the online petition," said Terry O'Sullivan, LIUNA general president. "Any further delays in the rulemaking process will only add to the death toll. The construction industry urgently needs stronger OSHA standards to prevent overexposure to silica dust. LIUNA and our supporters across the country will keep fighting for progress on this issue until a new safety standard is approved."

The petition requires 25,000 signatures by February 11 to elicit a formal response from the White House. As of this writing, the petition has 18,278 signatures.