Federal regulators announced plans Friday to dramatically limit workplace exposure to silica dust, an agent known to cause crippling lung disease and cancer in thousands of workers each year.
The proposal from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration would cut in half the amount of silica exposure allowed for general industry and maritime workers. It would slash it by 80 percent for the construction industry.
OSHA officials estimated the long-awaited new limits would save nearly 700 lives each year and prevent 1,600 new cases of silicosis annually for those working at construction sites, glass manufacturing plants and other industries.
Workplace safety groups have urged OSHA for years to set new exposure limits, saying they would protect lives. But the proposed new rule is expected to face strong opposition from industry groups that contend lower limits are not necessary and will be too difficult and costly to measure for thousands of businesses.