Working with silica has always been a risky proposition, but a new government regulation will improve construction site safety. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently unveiled the Occupational Exposure to Respirable Crystalline Silica Rule, which dramatically reduces the permissible silica exposure limit for construction workers. Under the proposal, employees may be exposed to no more than 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air over an eight-hour shift, which is half that which was previously allowed.
The news has been greeted with resistance from some employers who maintain that the new maximum exposure limit is technologically and economically infeasible. OSHA counters that the tools necessary for implementation, such as water or vacuum-based systems, are not prohibitively expensive and that a healthy workforce is more productive and less costly than one which is depleted by occupational illness. According to government officials, the new rule could prevent 900 new cases of silicosis each year representing net benefits of $7.7 billion annually and saving over 600 lives.
Workers Benefit Most With the Silica Rule
Construction workers are disproportionately affected by silicosis, an occupational lung disease which occurs when dust containing silica is inhaled. Employees who grind, drill, cut or crush concrete and stone are at risk of developing silicosis. OSHA maintains that the new rule will benefit the two million construction workers who work with silica-containing materials, as well as 300,000 workers in other industries such as masonry and hydraulic fracturing. Silicosis can lead to respiratory failure and death, Philadelphia construction accident lawyers report.
In addition to reducing the amount of silica an employee may be exposed to during a typical eight-hour shift by half, the new OSHA silica rule requires employers to provide respirators when water and vacuum-based systems fail to meet the 50 microgram limit and to limit worker access to high exposure areas. Additionally, employers must submit a written exposure control plan, train workers on silica risks and offer routine medical screening to those who are frequently exposed. The final rule is in effect as of June 23, 2016, and OSHA has given employers up to five years to phase in the requirements.
Philadelphia Construction Accident Lawyers at DiTomaso Law Pursue Compensation for Injured Employees
Silica exposure is controllable when an employer acts responsibly. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with silicosis because of an unsafe work environment, contact the Philadelphia construction accident lawyers at DiTomaso Law. With offices located in Center City Philadelphia and Cherry Hill, New Jersey, we proudly serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and South Jersey including Philadelphia County, Bucks County, Montgomery County, Chester County, Delaware County, Camden County, Burlington County, and Atlantic County. Call us today at 856-414-0010 or at 215-426-4993 or complete our online questionnaire to schedule a free consultation.