News & Press: General

U.S. Court of Appeals Rejects Challenge to Silica Rule

Friday, January 19, 2018  
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In a major disappointment, on December 22, 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled on challenges to OSHA’s new silica exposure standard by assorted business groups, including the American Foundry Society (AFS) and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM).

The groups claimed the rule is too stringent, and asked the court to review whether limiting silica exposure to levels set by the new rule reduces a significant risk of material health impairment, whether the rule is technologically and economically feasible, whether OSHA violated the Administrative Procedures Act when promulgating the rule, and whether the prohibition against dry cleaning methods, unless wet cleaning was infeasible, was warranted.

In the ruling, the court rejected all of the challenges, finding that OSHA’s arguments were supported by substantial evidence and reasonable explanations. In addition, the court found merit in challenges made by labor unions, who believe that the rule is not stringent enough in protecting workers. The court found that the OSHA’s rationale for failing to include medical removal protection provisions for workers, when recommended in a medial opinion, constituted unreasoned decision making by the agency and remanded the rule to OSHA for reconsideration of this part of the rule. This means any future legal challenge and victory by industry against OSHA and the Silica rule is highly unlikely, and it is widely expected that additional provisions for worker medical removal provisions will be added to the rule in coming months.

As a reminder, all general industry employers must comply with the requirements of the Silica Rule by June 23, 2018, with some minor exceptions. Additional information is available at: https://www.osha.gov/dsg/topics/silicacrystalline/.


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