The U.S federal regulators announced its plans on Friday to significantly limit workplace exposure to a substance known to cause grave diseases--silica dust.

The plan proposed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) would lessen exposure of maritime and general industry workers by up to 50 percent and 80 percent for workers in the construction industry.

Approximately 700 lives annually are expected to be saved and 1,600 cases of silicosis would be prevented once the plan has taken its course.

The proposed new regulation aims to protect lives but opposition from the industry groups claim that it will not be beneficial to the pocket.

This ruling is the first major one under the new Labor Secretary Thomas Perez. While Labor advocates support his commitment to safety and worker’s rights, Industry groups ferociously oppose him.

David Michaels, the assistant labor secretary said that they are aware that exposures greater than the norm can cause grave diseases.

Yearly, roughly two million U.S. workers are exposed to silica dust, with the most numbers in the construction trades, about 200 of which die yearly because of silicosis and 7,300 new cases are noted every year.

Development of the new criteria took more than a decade and the existing plan was left rotten for more than a couple of years as it awaited a green light at the Office of Management and Budget in the White House.

Executive director Marc Freedman of labor law policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has expressed that the new limits on exposure are needless because existing equipment cannot precisely measure it. He then recommended that there should be more focus on addressing the low level of conformity with the existing limits.

Mark Ellis, president of the National Industrial Sand Association, agreed with the proposal to perform dust monitoring and medical surveillance. On the other hand, he argued that it is innecessary to cut the exposure limit in his industry by 50 percent.

Only 100 micrograms per cubic meter of silica exposure to air and 250 micrograms per cubic meter for construction work is the limit for maritime and general industry workers and the proposal world decrease the limit in all aspects to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air in an eight-hour average.

This was first reported by Yahoo!