The Carter administration, which last summer was divided over regulations to reduce worker exposure to cotton dust, yesterday asked Congress not to stand in the way of immediate enforcement of the controls.

The new rules took effect Sept. 4, but the Senate voted unexpectedly last week to delay implementation until May 1 to allow time to assess industry charges that the controls would be excessively costly.

The moratorium, tacked onto the $56.5 billion appropriations bill for the departments of labor and Health, Education and Welfare, is now before a House-Senate conference committee.

Conferees yesterday deadlocked over a Senate amendment to postpone the standards until May 1. House conferees, on a 6-to-3 vote, refused to accept the postponement, and the conferees agreed to go back to the House and the Senate for further instructions.

Earlier, just as the rules were about to be issued by U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, White House inflation-fighters zeroed in on the proposals, suggesting that they could be modified to cut costs. The result was a testy bureaucratic spat that was finally resolved by a Carter-imposed compromise that let both sides claim some credit.

Yesterday both the White House and Labour Secretary Ray Marshall appealed to the conferees to drop the Senate-proposed moratorium, while textile industry leaders testified in support of it during Senate oversight hearings on OSHA

In a letter to Sen. Warren G. Magnuson (D-WASH.), chairman of the Senate Labor-HEW appropriations subcommittee, Marshall contested industry claims that the rules would cost up to $2.6 billion and add three quarters of 1 percent to the inflation name. He said a dealy would be a "serious blow to thousands of American workers" who are exposed to [WORD ILLEGIBLE] or so-called "brown lung," from breathingcotton dust.

Marshall claimed that the rules would cost the industry about $450 million, and reasserted OSHA's contention that about 150,000 workers now suffer from various stages of disease caused by cotton dust.

Sticking by its own figures industry officials accused OSHA of grosslyunderstating the costs to win White House approval of the new rules, and warned of "irreparable harm for the American cotton industry" if the rules are enforced.

They also contended that the industry lacks sufficient technology to meet OSHA's new rules, Marshall disputed this.

Despite OSHA's controversial history, the first day of the oversight hearings - which are aimed largely as a defensive action to fend off crippling amendments like the cotton dust moratorium - produced no bomb shells.

The friendly dorum gave Marshall an opportunity to claim the OSHA had made "great strides" in improving the agency's performance and promise more of the same, including stream-lining of standards for construction work and industrial production.