Last week the Department of Labor issued a new and controversial ruling that would limit the allowable exposure of silica dust. This ruling influences individuals working in construction, remodeling, home building, fracking, and other industries. Silica exposure can lead to silicosis and cancer.

NPR’s Nell Greenfieldboyce looks into what this new OSHA ruling means for the future of the construction industry. Cost estimates to meet the new ruling are expected to begin in the billions according to Amanda Wood, director of employment policy for the National Association of Manufacturers.

Before issuing this rule, the government held weeks of hearings, took comments from thousands of stakeholders and did all kinds of analyses that took years, says Michaels, who notes that "we have to show that the rule will be economically and technologically feasible for every industry that we cover."

But a lot of industry groups disagree with that assessment and have fought against the new rule.

Brian Turmail, a spokesman for the Associated General Contractors of America, says if a dust-producing part of a construction site has to be cordoned off and put off-limits to all workers except those in protective gear, "you would delay or lengthen the time it takes to complete projects. And certainly the cost of building any type of construction project — because virtually every type of construction project is going to create dust — will go up significantly."

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