August 2015: Government Affairs

Words: Dan Kamys

Senate Appropriations Committee Passes Amendment Delaying Silica Rule

borg_1114Stephen A. Borg

On Thursday, June 25, 2015, the Senate Appropriations Committee considered the FY16 Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations bill and passed the bill out of committee and to the full Senate for consideration. We are pleased to report that, during consideration of the bill, Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) offered an amendment to delay the proposed silica exposure rule being pursued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). As you know, this rule will have a massively negative impact on the masonry industry and the construction industry as a whole. This amendment will go a long way toward ensuring that OSHA answers the questions that they should have answered before even pursuing this drastic rule. Starting a huge momentum push, this amendment was passed by the committee by a voice vote and is now a part of the legislation that moves to the full Senate for consideration. Specifically, the Sen. Hoeven amendment would not allow OSHA to finalize the regulation until such time that:
  1. a new Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act, or SBREFA Panel review is conducted and a report delivered to OSHA; and
  2. an independent study is delivered to the Appropriations Committee and the HELP Committee examining:
  1. OSHA’s epidemiological justification for its proposed reduction of the current OSHA exposure limits, including the prevalence or lack of disease and mortality associated with the current OSHA exposure limits
  2. the ability of laboratories to measure, with accuracy and precision that meet the “NIOSH Accuracy Criterion,” exposures generally below the current OSHA exposure limits and, specifically, at the proposed OSHA exposure limit and proposed action level
  3. the ability of various types of personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect employees
  4. the steady decline in silicosis related mortality rates based on data maintained by the Centers for Disease Control, and
  5. the costs of the different types of PPE compared with the costs of engineering and work practice controls.
While we are celebrating this huge victory in the Senate, our work is far from over. Unfortunately, this language was not included in the underlying House version of the FY16 Labor-HHS-Education bill. We need you to call your Representative and ask him or her to contact Chairman Tom Cole (R-OK) to urge him to include the Hoeven language in the final version of the corresponding House bill. While it appears that the appropriations process for Fiscal Year 2016 will not be wrapped up until September, and will likely be concluded with one major package of all 12 appropriations bills, it is imperative that we continue the momentum from this massive win in the Senate Appropriations Committee and get this language in any final version of the bill when it moves. We continue to work with our coalition partners to make this language a priority in Congress, and now we need your help.
Stephen A. Borg is VP of The Keelen Group, www.keelengroup.com.
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