Economists say the new standard is likely to cost the economy $7.2 billion a year and 27,000 jobs over 10 years.
Worker safety is Job 1. General contractors know it—and so apparently does U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez. “No one should have to shorten his or her life to make a living,” Perez said in late March. "Everyone who leaves for work in the morning should come home safe and sound.”
How true, how true. It's dangerous out there. No question, perhaps especially for construction workers. It follows that the safest course for them is to stay home. Perez should have OSHA update and co-opt the War on Drugs message of 30 years ago, reworking the “Just Say No” motto to read, “Just Stay Home.”
“Why risk a car wreck on the way to a job site? Why put oneself in jeopardy by working around clanking yellow machines and trucks that weigh several tons and can squish a person? Just stay home and be safe. This is a message from your Occupational Health and Safety Administration.”
This rant is sparked by OSHA's new rule on silica dust. The administration has once again pretty much ignored the construction, manufacturing and fracking industries it theoretically is serving, this time by ruling that silica dust must be drastically reduced. The new figure is 50 micrograms per cubic meter, down from the currently allowable 250 micrograms per cubic meter. An 80 percent reduction in the next year or two. Overkill in the name of saving lives.
“Manufacturers tried to work with OSHA to make this a feasible, effective rule, and have long stressed the need for flexibility, clear justification, and reliable, current data in this rulemaking process,” says Jay Timmons, CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers. “Our suggestions, however, were ignored.”
Having to justify a draconian reduction by using current industry data apparently is too much to ask. It might result in a reasonable ruling instead of an ideologically satisfying one. Economists say the new standard is likely to cost the economy $7.2 billion a year and 27,000 jobs over 10 years. But think of how much safer the idled workers will be.