Those who work in construction nationwide, including in Pennsylvania, are always at risk of contracting an incurable, potentially fatal lung disease called silicosis. Grinding, cutting, blasting and conducting other activities involving stone, concrete and brick create dust that contains respirable crystalline silica can cause consequences as severe as the worst construction workers’ accidents. Exposure to excessive levels of silica dust can lead to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, kidney disease and even lung cancer.
After several delays, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently announced that the final rule for silica control in the construction industry would become effective on Sept. 23. When compared to sand granules, the particles of silica dust is said to be 100 times smaller. The current standard of 250 micrograms of silica dust per cubic meter over eight hours will be lowered to 50 micrograms in the new rule.
Other new requirements include a written plan for the control of silica and a designated person to ensure implementation. The plan must include maximized dust control in housekeeping practices and employee training in limiting their own exposure to respirable crystalline silica. The rules also contain specific requirements for medical testing that includes chest X-rays and lung function tests, along with proper record keeping of each worker’s exposure to silica and medical treatment received.
While these new stricter control measures may prevent many new silica-related cases, a significant number of construction workers in Pennsylvania may have developed illnesses from exposure over previous years. Just like victims of construction workers’ accidents, victims of occupational diseases are entitled to claim benefits from the workers’ compensation insurance program to cover medical expenses and lost income. They also have the right to seek the help of an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to navigate benefits claims for them.
Source: constructiondive.com, “What contractors need to know about OSHA’s new silica rule“, Kim Slowey, Aug. 22, 2017