After more than two years of White House review, OSHA has finally published its proposed new standards for silica exposure. Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, Assistant Secretary David Michaels, and many other people both inside and outside the agency deserve congratulations for finally shaking the proposal loose from the clutches of the president’s regulatory review team in OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. The publication of the proposal is an important step towards protecting millions of Americans who are exposed to the deadly dust in their workplaces.
But this is no time for the agency to rest on its laurels. As GAO noted in a recent report, OSHA proposals published in the 2000s took an average of three years to reach the “final rule” stage. If it takes that long to publish the final silica rule, it will be in jeopardy of falling prey to election-year politics. The Obama administration’s regulatory agencies published fewer final rules in 2012 than the agencies published in any of the prior 15 years. (Thanks to Curtis Copeland for this analysis.) It is incumbent upon Secretary Perez, Assistant Secretary Michaels, and their entire team to keep this rule moving along expeditiously. That means no extensions of the comment periods, efficient management of the rulemaking hearings, and a hardline stance against the White House’s regulatory review team, which has a history of holding up this rule.
Today marks an important step forward for workers, but the finish line is a long way off.