Hazards of Respirable Silica

Columbia, SC Workers’ Compensation Lawyers discuss serious hazards of respirable crystalline silica. Workers in manufacturing plants are at high risk for exposure to respirable crystalline silica – also known as quartz dust. When the mineral silica is cut, grinded or drilled, it transforms into microscopic dust particles that can present a dangerous health hazard for individuals who inhale them. Workers exposed to the deadly dust can face a lifetime of medical issues and incur significant medical treatment costs. For many, the benefits recovered through a Workers’ Compensation claim can be a lifeline.

Silica Exposure

Over three million individuals will face exposure to dangerous quartz dust at their workplaces this year. Even the presence of a small amount of airborne silica dust can be hazardous for workers. The following construction materials frequently contain silica: soil, sand, concrete, granite, masonry, rock, brick, fiberglass, and other landscaping mediums.

Workers in the construction, oil, and gas industries are more likely to inhale the dangerous silica dust. Some of the construction tasks that can create respirable silica include:

  • Abrasive sandblasting
  • Cement mixing
  • Cutting granite slabs or counters
  • Demolition
  • Flat surface grinding
  • Drywall sanding
  • Jackhammering

Any activity that cuts into quartz materials has the potential for creating these hazardous airborne particles.

Health Hazards

Exposure to respirable silica dust may cause silicosis, lung disease, lung cancer, tuberculosis, congestive heart failure, and pulmonary disease. These medical conditions can result in permanent disability. Federal law requires some construction workers be offered medical surveillance services to monitor for the development of these conditions. In addition to free medical examinations, workers frequently exposed to quartz dust may receive chest x-rays and pulmonary functioning testing.

Workers who breathe in respirable silica often require extensive medical treatments including hospitalizations, pulmonary therapy, and physical rehabilitation services resulting in an inability to work. Workers’ Compensation benefits may be available to help with medical costs and lost wages.

Protection for Workers

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set forth specific standards relating to the use of respirable crystalline silica in industrial settings. Employers who fail to comply with OSHA safety standards face both criminal and civil liability. Some of the duties of employers include identifing and listing which dangerous chemicals are found in the workplace; obtaining material safety data sheets and labels for hazardous materials; developing and implementing a written hazard communication program; and communicating hazard information directly to employees. These employer responsibilities are crucial to maintaining a safe working environment.

Research indicates levels of unsafe respirable dust levels traditionally spike at the end of manufacturing shifts when cleanup is more likely to occur. Workers should limit their exposure to cleanup areas in accordance with OSHA guidelines. To minimize dust emissions, workers should follow all instructions from tool manufacturers on how to properly use the machinery and engage in appropriate cleaning practices such as wet sweeping and using HEPA-filtered vacuums. Safety equipment such as respirators and high efficiency particulate air filters should be used at all industrial sites where silica levels exceed the permissible exposure limit.

Columbia Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Chappell Smith & Arden, P.A. Assist Workers Harmed by Respirable Silica

Individuals suffering from a work-related injury or illness may be entitled to compensation for their injuries. At Chappell Smith & Arden, P.A., our experienced Columbia Workers’ Compensation lawyers assist injured workers, including those dealing with injuries caused by respirable silica, throughout South Carolina. To speak with an experienced Columbia Workers’ Compensation Lawyer today, call us at 803-929-3600 or 866-881-8623 or contact us online.

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