The Department of Labor recently put out new rules to improve safety for workers who are exposed to silica on the job. These rules were promulgated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. This is the first update to the rule since 1971. Silica is dangerous because it is respirable and can cause silicosis, an incurable disease that affects workers from a variety of job areas. This article will go over the new rules and how they may impact you.
OSHA estimates that this new rule will save 600 lives a year and prevent more than 900 new cases annually. About 2.3 million workers are exposed to silica, including 2 million construction workers that work with concrete and stone.
These new rules take effect June 23 of this year and companies have one to five years to come into compliance. The implementation of the rules is based on a two standards: Construction and General Industry/Maritime work. Construction companies have until June 23, 2017 to come into compliance. General industry and maritime companies have until June 23, 2018 and hydraulic fracturing businesses have until June 23, 2021.
The new rules require employers to:
- Provide medical exams to exposed workers.
- Reduce the permissible exposure limit for workers.
- Introduce additional protections to limit worker exposure to silica. Companies can provide respirators, ventilation, develop exposure plans and provide additional training on limiting silica exposure.
If you are engaged in one of these jobs, then it is possible you were exposed to silica. If you begin noticing the symptoms or become sick, you may have a valid workers' compensation claim. You may want to sit down with an attorney to review your rights and to go over the process to file your claim. Workers' compensation is for both immediate injuries and sicknesses; you should not be forced to pay for your medical bills.