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Today in Labor History

July 21, 1984: A die-cast operator in Jackson, Mich., is pinned by a hydraulic Unimate robot, dies five days later. Incident is the first documented case in the U.S. of a robot killing a human.
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Updated: Jul. 21 (10:05)

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OSHA Delays Start of Silica Exposure Rule Enforcement
Updated On: Apr 08, 2017

By Mark Gruenberg
Press Associates Inc.

WASHINGTON (PAI) — Citing the need for better education of construction firms and workers about how to battle exposure to cancer-causing crystalline silica dust, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) delayed the start of enforcement of its new silica exposure rule by three months.

In its April 6 statement, the agency said it needs “to conduct additional outreach and provide educational materials and guidance for employers” because of “the unique nature of the requirements in the construction standard.”

So enforcement will start on Sept. 23, 2017, not June 23, the agency said. OSHA’s new standard would cut worker exposure to silica, now 100 micrograms per cubic meter of air, averaged over an 8-hour shift, to 50 micrograms/cubic meter. Workers who inhale the dust can develop silicosis or lung cancer.

The delay upset the AFL-CIO which, like the building trades, has lobbied for years to curb worker exposure to silica dust.

“The labor movement has fought for decades to win this lifesaving rule, and any further delay is unacceptable. The longer the Trump administration delays, the more workers will suffer and die. This action alone will lead to an additional 160 worker deaths. We will do everything possible to make sure this commonsense rule is not taken away. Workers’ lives are at stake,” Federation President Richard Trumka said.

OSHA did not say what it would do about the enforcement start for silica exposure for other industries, in 2018. And the delay doesn’t mean OSHA will walk away from cutting construction worker exposure to silica dust.

“OSHA expects employers in the construction industry to continue to take steps either to come into compliance with the new permissible exposure limit or to implement specific dust controls for certain operations as provided in Table 1 of the standard,” it said. “Construction employers should also continue to prepare to implement the standard’s other requirements, including exposure assessment, medical surveillance, and employee training.”  

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