Pennsylvania construction workers and others who work in industries where they may be exposed to silica dust may have to wait longer than anticipated for rules to protect them from exposure to the substance. On April 7, the Trump administration announced that it would delay the deployment of such a rule for a minimum of three more months. However, it is possible that it might be scrapped entirely. Enforcement of the rule was set to begin in late June and has been pushed back to September, but with a review of agency regulations underway, it could be repealed.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration had estimated that the lives of hundreds of workers would be saved each year, and the rule was hailed as the most significant workplace safety reform from the Obama administration. More than 2 million workers are exposed to silica dust annually, and it can lead to a disease called silicosis that may cause lung cancer and other lung problems.
Other workplace protections may be in jeopardy as well. Employers’ injury reporting requirements have been loosened, and OSHA fears this may interfere with tracking workplace hazards that are ongoing. A regulation that puts obstacles in the pathways of companies with a history of OSHA violations seeking federal contracts has also been rolled back.
There are still a number of protections available to workers. For example, if a person is injured at work or suffers a workplace illness, that person is still probably eligible for workers’ compensation. Workers who are uncertain about their eligibility might want to speak to an attorney about the situation. They should also know that their employers are not supposed to retaliate against employees who apply for compensation.