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BMWE SUES SECRETARY OF LABOR DEMANDING THAT OSHA ENFORCE SILICA DUST SAFETY REGULATIONS

 BMWE SUES SECRETARY OF LABOR DEMANDING THAT OSHA ENFORCE
 SILICA DUST SAFETY REGULATIONS
 WASHINGTON, April 3 /PRNewswire/ -- The Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes issued the following:
 The Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes has filed suit against the Department of Labor in an effort to require the department to enforce safety standards on silica dust exposure.
 The action follows a government report which revealed that maintenance of way workers are being exposed to dangerous levels of silica dust and that safety standards for silica exposure are not being enforced on the railroads.
 The suit, filed last week in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, names as defendants Secretary of Labor Lynn Martin and Dorothy L. Strunk, acting assistant secretary for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
 Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, OSHA is charged with enforcing workplace safety regulations where the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) issues no regulations. However, the government report, issued by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, noted that enforcement on this health hazard is falling through the cracks because of a jurisdictional dispute between FRA and OSHA.
 In the suit, the BMWE is asking for a permanent injunction directing OSHA to enforce safety standards on silica dust exposure, and for a declaratory judgment stating that OSHA has "an absolute duty to require that the railroads comply with the applicable provisions of" the Occupational Safety and Health Act.
 "It is amazing that we have to go to court to get OSHA -- the agency that is supposed to look out for workers -- to do its job," BMWE President Mac A. Fleming said. "Our members have been exposed for years to dangerous levels of silica dust, yet OSHA continues to wash its hands of the matter."
 The NIOSH report, based on a limited study on Norfolk Southern sites in North Carolina and Virginia, revealed that maintenance of way workers are exposed to silica dust levels as much as 20 times the safe amount. The report also noted that Norfolk Southern knew about these high levels of exposure as early as 1984, yet the company took no effective corrective action until last month.
 Prolonged overexposure to silica dust can cause silicosis, a chronic lung disease similar to black lung disease. NIOSH also considers silica dust a potential carcinogen.
 The BMWE, 50,000 strong, represents the men and women who build and maintain the tracks, buildings and bridges on the railroads of the United States and Canada.
 -0- 4/3/92
 /CONTACT: Steve Fountain of BMWE, 313-868-0490 ext. 255/ CO: Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes; Department of Labor ST: District of Columbia IN: SU:


TW -- DC010 -- 5449 04/03/92 12:02 EST
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Apr 3, 1992
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