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OSHA Proposes Rulemaking Regarding Silica Dust

Posted By Arnold & Itkin || 17-Dec-2014

Work in many industries, such as construction, exposes employees to inhalation of silica dust. This dangerous substance is created through the demolition, cutting, crushing, or other destruction of rock, stone, concrete, and other common materials. When these very fine particles are released into the air and inhaled by workers, they can cause the development of silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lung cancer, and kidney disease.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has proposed a new rule to decrease the exposure workers face and impose certain safety practices that must be enforced to reduce inhalation of these hazardous crystals. Permissible exposure limits (PELs) for silica crystal dust have not been updated in 40 years, and OSHA seeks to update it, as well as other details surrounding the substance. The revisionary rule is currently being drafted, and OSHA has invited members of the public, including workers, business owners, family members of victims, and other related individuals to participate in its development through commentary and appearances at public hearings. The rule was produced after OSHA accepted suggestions and recommendations from industry parties and others who contributed information on this hazard.

Steps to Prevent or Reduce Exposure to Silica Particles Includes:

  • Wet cutting significantly reduces the amount of dangerous dust produced when materials are being cut with a saw. Maintaining the water-feed system of a saw can ensure that this method is used to its full advantage.
  • Vacuum dust collection is accomplished through equipment connected to a saw, which captures dust at the source of the cut. This can collect a large amount of dust before it reaches the lungs of workers, but it does not fully eliminate all risks.
  • Fans can be used in areas with poor circulation, where harmful dust may accumulate.
  • Exposure monitoring can pinpoint problematic areas or techniques. Since the damages resulting from silica dust often take years to develop, harm inflicted on workers by dangerous conditions may not be readily apparent until significant damage has occurred.
  • Respiratory protection, such as masks and respirators may be needed in some instances.

The most dangerous silica particles are not visible, so relying on removing visible dust is not sufficient to create a safe work environment. Certain conditions can also have an impact on exposure levels, especially in outdoor settings, such as wind speed, and how much an area is exposed to moisture or humidity.

If you or a loved one has grown ill as a result of exposure to silica dust or other harmful toxins, you may have a claim against the employer. Contact our toxic exposure attorneys today for a free consultation.

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