Agency Extends Comment Period on Long-Overdue Worker Safety Rule

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced on Oct. 25 that it is extending the public comment period for a proposed rule to lower worker exposure to crystalline silica. Silica dust can be deadly; it kills hundreds of workers every year and sickens thousands more. OSHA stated that in response to requests for an extension, it will give stakeholders an additional 47 days beyond the original Dec. 11 deadline to submit comments on the proposal.

The proposed rule, which would save hundreds of lives annually, was stalled in the rulemaking process for years. When OSHA finally announced the proposal in August, health and safety advocates urged the administration to move forward with the rulemaking without further delay. Meanwhile, business interests pressured the agency to give companies more time to weigh in. The Small Business Administration's Office of Advocacy and Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO) both asked OSHA to extend the original 90-day public comment period by another three months. 

The rule's supporters noted that small businesses were able to weigh in during earlier stages of the rulemaking and argued that OSHA should not grant unnecessary extensions when lives are at stake. The Center for Progressive Reform's Matt Shudtz wrote, "To be sure, the rulemaking docket is voluminous and the issues are complex. But the bottom line is that each day of delay in publishing the new rule means another day when millions of workers will be exposed to elevated levels of a deadly dust."  

Although OSHA granted an extension, it did not expand the timeframe as extensively as industry would have liked. Stakeholders will now have until Jan. 27, 2014 to submit written comments and testimony on the silica rule proposal.

Going forward, the agency needs to stay on task and refuse requests to unnecessarily hold up critical safety standards that have already been delayed for years.

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