Silica Court Challenge Won’t Wait for Trump Decision

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By Bruce Rolfsen

A court case challenging OSHA’s silica rule won’t be delayed, a three-judge panel said Feb. 13, giving Trump administration officials less time to decide if they should defend the union-backed rule in court before companies must comply with the standard.

The unanimous decision didn’t explain why the judges rejected the employers’ delay request ( N. Am. Bldg. Trade Unions v. OSHA , D.C. Cir., No. 16-1105, 2/13/17 ).

The case schedule calls for industry groups and unions to submit briefs by Feb. 24 and to file final briefs by March 23.

Industry groups opposing the rule had asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to delay the case for 60 days in order to give the Trump administration time to decide if the Occupational Safety and Health Administration would continue to defend the rule (RIN:1218-AB70).

Union groups supporting most of the rule’s provisions opposed any delay. Attorneys for OSHA didn’t take a position.

The rule took effect last March (81 Fed. Reg. 16,285), requiring construction sites to meet compliance by June 23. However, most other industries have until June 23, 2018, to comply.

The silica rule sets a permissible exposure limit (PEL) for airborne crystalline silica that is half the prior general industry limit and 80 percent less than the old construction and maritime standard.

About 2.3 million workers are exposed to silica in workplaces and of those, about 940,000 are exposed to silica levels exceeding the new standard, according to OSHA. OSHA said the rule will prevent 642 deaths a year and 918 moderate-to-severe silicosis cases.

To contact the reporter on this story: Bruce Rolfsen in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at

For More Information

The Feb. 13 court order is available at

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