Columbia Workers’ Compensation Lawyers weigh in on new and improved silica exposure standards. Recently, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) put new rules regarding silica exposure into effect. The rules are intended to protect workers who interact with silica. Workers in certain industries, including construction, regularly face exposure to dangerous materials. It is up to employers to adhere to OSHA standards to protect workers’ safety.

There are numerous industries that utilize products containing crystalline silica. Natural construction supplies such as sand, concrete, stone, and mortar all contain silica, as do synthetic products such as bricks, artificial stone, asphalt, industrial sand, glass, and ceramics. Exposure to silica impacts workers in dental laboratories, hydraulic fracturing, landscaping, stone cutting, jewelry production, railroads, painting, and pottery.

When OSHA first announced the updated standards in 2016, the agency estimated that 2.3 million workers faced potentially dangerous silica exposure. Silica exposure can cause a number of serious occupational illnesses, including silicosis, kidney disease, lung cancer, and other respiratory conditions. OSHA expects the improved standards to prevent 600 deaths and 900 cases of silicosis per year.

New Rules Lower Acceptable Rate of Exposure

The updated silica standards lower the permissible exposure limit for workers to 50 milligrams of respirable crystalline per cubic meter of air, measured over an eight-hour day. Workers who exceed this limit for 30 or more days per year must be offered a medical surveillance examination by their employer, which can be conducted by a predetermined healthcare provider. The standard also provides some safety recommendations, such as respiratory protective equipment, that are not mandatory. If an employer chooses not to follow the recommended safety protocols, they must provide an alternative plan to control exposure and conduct an exposure assessment.

Though the rule was approved by OSHA in 2016, it took until 2018 for it to be fully implemented. Employer groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, challenged the new rule, but the challenge was overturned in appeals court in December 2017. A limited version of the rule was rolled out to the construction industry in October of 2017; in the first six months, OSHA identified 117 violations, 80 percent of which were classified as serious.

The OSHA standard gives employers some flexibility as to how they implement protections for workers, but all of them are required to conduct an exposure assessment and take steps to protect workers. Failing to do so can cause serious and potentially deadly health conditions. Workers who have been harmed by exposure to silica in the workplace may be eligible for Workers’ Compensation benefits.

Columbia Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Chappell Smith & Arden, P.A. Fight for Workers Exposed to Hazardous Materials

The Columbia Workers’ Compensation lawyers at Chappell Smith & Arden, P.A. provide comprehensive representation for workers who have suffered injury or illness in the workplace. Our knowledgeable, experienced lawyers are dedicated to getting you the maximum benefits to which you are entitled to cover lost wages and costly medical bills. Call us today at 866-881-8623 or contact us online for a free consultation with a Columbia Workers’ Compensation lawyer.

We assist injured workers across South Carolina, including those in Columbia, Aiken, Camden, Sumter, Orangeburg, Greenville, Florence, Beaufort, Irmo, Spartanburg, Myrtle Beach, Hilton Head Island, West Columbia, Rock Hill, Charleston, Lexington, Winnsboro, Summerville, and throughout Lexington County, Richland County, Sumter County, Charleston County, Aiken County, Florence County, Lancaster County, York County, Spartanburg County, Orangeburg County, Kershaw County, and Newberry County.