The following press release was sent out on Friday, March 25, 2016, from the Bricklayers & Allied Craftworkers of Ohio and Kentucky. The long awaited, dramatically reduced exposure regulations by the Department of Labor was made public by Secretary Perez at the BAC Training Center in Bowie, Maryland.
AMHERST, OH. March 25, 2016 – Wednesday, U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez announced the promulgation of the long-overdue final silica rule. The new rule dramatically reduces the allowed exposure limits for workers in a slew of industries. Secretary Perez made the announcement in Bowie, Md. at the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers (BAC) Training Center.
The BAC has taken a leading role in working with community and industry partners, scientists and lawmakers to ensure adoption of the final rule. “This is a huge step forward for millions of workers in the U.S., including Local BAC members who have suffered from silica dust exposure for generations,” BAC President Jim Boland said.
“The thousands of men and women in our trade jurisdiction should not suffer serious illness or die simply because they did their jobs. The tools that we need to protect ourselves and our workers are out there, but before today, companies weren’t forced to implement them to the fullest extent of the law,” said Ken Kudela, Director of the Ohio-Kentucky Administrative District Council of the BAC. “This new ruling will curb lung cancer, silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and kidney disease in our members. It’s long overdue, but it was the right thing to do for our workers and their families.”
The new rule will cap exposure at 50 micrograms of silica per cubic meter of air, down from the previous limit of 250 micrograms. About 2.3 million workers are exposed to respirable crystalline silica in their workplaces, including 2 million construction workers and 300,000 workers in general industry operations such as brick manufacturing, foundries, and hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking.
During his speech, Secretary Perez noted that the existing rule that limits exposure to silica dust hasn't been changed since the early 1970s. Even back then, he added, research showed the exposure limit didn't offer adequate protection. “Silica is a killer and employers need to take the necessary steps so that they can reduce exposure,” said Perez. “And the good news is that those necessary steps are not going to break the bank. It's real simple stuff. Get a vacuum. Get water. Those are the key elements of pretty simple compliance.”
The Ohio-Kentucky Administrative District Council is the administrative arm of the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers, representing 19 local unions and over 6,000 members throughout its two-state jurisdiction. The OH-KY ADC represents its dedicated membership in the Collective Bargaining process and provides education and upgrade training to its apprentices and journeymen through Joint Apprenticeship Training Committees and partnerships with signatory contractors.