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Informal Public Hearing on the Proposed Rule for
Occupational Exposure to Respirable Crystalline Silica

Opening Statement of

Dr. David Michaels
Assistant Secretary of Labor
for Occupational Safety and Health

March 18, 2014

Good morning. I'd like to welcome all of you to the opening of the public hearing on OSHA's silica proposal.

The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 authorizes OSHA to develop and promulgate occupational safety and health standards as one way to assure that every working man and woman in the nation has safe and healthful working conditions. 

It has been 75 years since Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins committed the department to eradicating silicosis. "With control measures conscientiously adopted and applied," she said, "silicosis can be prevented!"  Over the many years since she spoke those words, and in the more than 40 years since OSHA's current silica standard was established, much new information has been gathered on the health effects of exposure to silica dust. 

The OSH Act calls on OSHA to issue standards that attain the highest degree of health and safety protection for employees based on the best available evidence. Workers have been waiting far too long for OSHA to take another look at these protections. Their lives depend on it.

That's why we are all here today. We have proposed a rule that we believe is feasible and will adequately protect workers. We have come to no final conclusion on the issues raised in this rulemaking, and we look forward to reviewing the full record, including the record that will be made in this hearing. 

Feedback from stakeholders is a crucial part of developing new standards. All of OSHA's standards must meet many legal requirements. Most important is that they make sense in the workplace and that they protect workers.  In order to make sure they achieve these goals, we need your input. Because of the importance of this rule, OSHA has allotted more comment time for this proposal than almost any standard in OSHA's history. But that time is well worth it if it means we'll end up with a quality product.

So, thank you for the time and effort you have spent developing written comments and attending these public hearings, and welcome to the Department of Labor.


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