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OSHA's reduced enforcement puts workers at risk for toxic exposure



The Occupational Safety and Health Administration's "reduced" application of its occupational exposure to breathable crystalline silica rule has left "more workers at risk for silica exposure," according to a U.S. Department of Labor inspector general's audit report. Thursday.

The rule was created after 18 years of regulations to reduce and eliminate the worker's exposure to breathable crystalline silica, which occurs in many common materials such as stone, brick, mortar and ceramics, and when inhaled it causes serious, potentially fatal diseases. An estimated 2.3 million workers are at risk of exposure, according to the report.

Nevertheless, the OIG audit found that "OSHA did not fully invoke, through inspection activity, the greater protection of the rule to minimize workers' exposure to hazardous conditions."

OSHA's inspection data for the two financial years after the final rule became enforceable show that the Agency performed an average of 440 inspections annually. On the other hand, OSHA carried out an average of two 054 silica inspections per year during the two financial years before the final rule became enforceable. Therefore, after the final rule became enforceable, OSHA conducted approximately 600 fewer silica inspections per year, a reduction of more than 50%, the audit said.

OIG recommended in the audit that OSHA implement its policies and minimize the "failure" in the implementation between interrupted, revised or new programs "and that it establishes" meaningful goals and processes to access if OSHA's outreach events achieve the desired results for to reach a targeted number of workers at risk of exposure to silica.

In its response to the audit, OSHA said in part that it delayed enforcement "to give employers time to comply with the rules."

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