Court Bars Trade Groups from Oil Mist Suit


A U.S. appeals court last week denied a motion by the Independent Lubricant Manufacturers Association and three other groups to join a lawsuit in which unions complained that the federal government has failed to protect factory workers from metalworking fluid mist.

The case is scheduled to be heard in Philadelphia Jan. 9.

The United Auto Workers and United Steelworkers of America filed the case against Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao Oct. 21. Their case asks that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which is overseen by the Department of Labor, be compelled to lower its existing limit on oil mist exposureof 5 milligrams of oil mist per cubic meter of airduring an eight-hour day.

ILMA, the National Tooling and Machining Association, the Precision Machined Products Association and the Precision Metalforming Association all asked last month to join the suit as co-defendants. The court issued a brief statement denying the motion Dec. 9. The associations quickly asked the court to reconsider.

ILMA said the denial was a surprise because the unions had not opposed it.

It is highly unusual for a federal appeals court to deny intervention in cases such as this, especially when counsel for the unions agreed to our participation, Legal Counsel Jeffrey L. Leiter said. We hope that upon reconsideration, the court will agree that justice and judicial efficiency will be served by allowing the associations to participate in the proceedings.

Leiter said the associations assumed the court denied their request out of a belief that allowing them into the case would slow its fast-track schedule. Accordingly, the groups stated in their motion to reconsider that they would be ready to participate by Jan. 9. They also submitted briefs laying out their positions along with the motion.

The motion said the associations want to join the case because they are concerned OSHA will not adequately defend their interests.

A primary reason that we asked to intervene in the case is that OSHA does not have the latest scientific data on metalworking fluids, Leiter said. Our brief lays out the ongoing scientific uncertainty, which we believe will support a finding that OSHA was not under a mandatory duty to act.

The unions claim that the existing mist exposure standard puts workers at risk of respiratory and skin ailments, as well as cancer. The associations contend that unions case is based on a skewed interpretation of available science.

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