Workers face a significant risk of both injury and illness on many jobs. For example, in the construction industry as well as in many other fields, workers could get sick if they are exposed to silica. Silica is a common and naturally occurring mineral found in everything from dirt to granite. When silica is disturbed and dust blows around, the tiny particles can get into the lungs and cause major health problems.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration has long had a safety standard aimed at limiting exposure to crystalline silica, which is a known carcinogen. However, OSHA’s rules on silica were widely regarded as being insufficient to protect workers. Now, Safety News Alert reports OSHA has a new rule on silica which is: “one of the most significant safety regulation changes in years.”
Unfortunately, it will be several years until the new rule goes into effect for many workers. In the meantime, those who continue getting sick should consult with an Atlanta workers’ compensation lawyer for assistance in getting illness costs covered.
New Safety Standard Aimed at Preventing Atlanta Workplace Illnesses
OSHA’s new regulation on silica has limited the level of exposure to 50 micrograms per cubic meter averaged out over an eight hour work shift. The rule also imposes additional requirements as well, such as mandating:
- Employers use engineering controls including the use of both ventilation and water to limit workplace exposure to silica.
- Employers provide, and employees use, respiratory protection in situations where permissible levels of silica are not able to be achieved.
- Employers limit who can enter high-exposure areas, and provide appropriate training as well as routine medical exams to all workers in high exposure areas.
Employers have set a deadline of June 2017 for employers within the construction industry. For employers in the maritime industry or in general fields, the time limit for compliance is June of 2018. Those in the hydraulic fracturing business are also provided with extra time to comply with the requirement to install dust controls so workers can continue to perform their work while the silica control program is underway.
As many as 600 lives could be saved each year, and as many as 900 annual cases of silicosis will occur once these new standards go fully into effect. Unfortunately, workers may continue to be exposed in the meantime and some workers will still get sick even with the new rules in place.
Any employee who was exposed to silica, or to any other toxins in the workplace, can have his medical costs covered and can receive benefits through workers’ compensation. However, the link between work tasks and health issues will need to be proved, which can be complicated when illnesses develop long after initial exposure. An experienced attorney can help employees who get sick to make a successful work injury claim.
Parsons & Associates, P.C. is an Atlanta workers’ compensation law firm serving Atlanta, Savannah, and surrounding areas throughout Fulton County. Contact Parsons & Associates, P.C. today at 770-422-9000 or contact us online if you have been injured at work.