Court of Appeals Sends Silica Rule Back to OSHA

December 22, 2017

Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, DC issued a ruling on industry and union challenges to the new respirable silica rule that went into effect earlier this year. The court of appeals dismissed the industry challenges to the rule, but granted a union-led challenge regarding OSHA’s decision to exclude a provision regarding medical removal protection for workers in the final rule. The result is that OSHA must now reconsider whether to provide protections for workers exposed to silica dust when recommended by a doctor.

The unions claimed that OSHA’s failure to include the medical removal protections was arbitrary, and that OSHA did not adequately explain its decision-making process. The court of appeals agreed, and ordered OSHA to reconsider or further explain its decision. This decision is important because if medical removal protection is required under the silica rule, then employers would be required to maintain the worker’s total normal earnings and benefits during the removal period. The decision is also important for the fact that the court of appeals rejected each of the industry challenges to the rule regarding the evidence supporting the final permissible exposure limit, and the technical and economic feasibility of implementing the rule. With this ruling, the new OSHA silica rule is here to stay.

Check back for further updates on this and other OSHA issues.