A rule that would have protected workers in New Jersey and throughout the country from exposure to silica dust starting in June has been pushed back to at least September and might be repealed altogether. The rule, signed by President Obama, would have reduced the amount of exposure workers could have to silica dust, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration had predicted that it would save around 600 lives each year. Exposure to silica dust causes lung disease and lung cancer, and more than 2 million workers are exposed to it annually.
However, on April 6, OSHA said that the rule required additional guidance. While workers’ rights groups support the regulations, industry groups have been fighting them. According to a worker safety advocate at one organization, the rule has been under consideration for four decades.
Pushing back and potentially repealing the rule would be in line with other decisions made by the Trump administration concerning labor. Legislation has already been passed that rolls back a rule shortening the time that companies must keep accident records to six months from five years. Another regulation that has been repealed required companies trying to get federal contracts to disclose OSHA violations from the past few years.
An occupational disease can create a great deal of economic insecurity for workers and their family members. Although workers’ compensation insurance covers illnesses incurred on the job as well as injury accidents, many employers will attempt to fight a claim by asserting that the disease was due to a victim’s lifestyle choices rather than the workplace environment. This is one reason why having the help of an attorney throughout the process might be advisable.