OSHA Announces New Regulations for Silica Exposure

Toxic ExposureA new rule from the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will drastically reduce the amount of silica dust a worker can be exposed to while on the job. Crystalline silica is a mineral present in many common substances such as sand, stone, and concrete. When silica is broken down and the dust is inhaled, minuscule particles can enter into the lungs and cause silicosis. Silicosis can lead to lung cancer and kidney disease and in some cases may be fatal.

Workers in Many Industries are Exposed to Dangerous Amounts of Silica

Despite the known dangers of silica, workers are currently being exposed to dangerous levels in many industries including manufacturing and hydraulic fracturing, commonly called fracking. The construction industry has been affected the most and, according to OSHA, approximately 2 million construction workers have been exposed to silica while at work.

Currently, workers may be exposed to a maximum of 250 micro grams of silica dust per cubic meter over an 8 hour period. OSHA’s new ruling will decrease this amount by 5 times to 50 micro grams, saving approximately 600 lives per year according to estimates. This ruling represents the first silica regulation from OSHA since it was founded in 1971.

Additional OSHA provisions require employers to:

  • Provide respirators to workers in situations where exposure cannot be mitigated
  • Create exposure control plans to limit toxic exposure
  • Provide medical exams to workers exposed to impermissible levels of silica
  • Train workers on safety and the risks associated with silica

The new regulations will go into effect on June 23, 2016, after which the construction industry will have one year to come into compliance. Other industries will be given another year and must comply by June 23, 2018. Additional time will also be given for companies to implement further engineering controls to prevent silica exposure such as air ventilation and water regulation. This time frame is put in place to give employers flexibility in instituting the new regulations.

Exposed to Hazardous Materials in the Workplace?

If you or a loved one has been injured on the job, call our New York City personal injury lawyers at Lurie, Ilchert, MacDonnell & Ryan LLP today. Our firm has been serving New York for more than 50 years and has recovered more than $420 million in damages for our past clients. If you are ready to take action, our firm can help get you the compensation you deserve.

Call (646) 461-4009 to schedule a free consultation with our lawyers today.