OSHA’s New Silica Exposure Standard
November 8, 2018
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), almost two and a half million workers are exposed to crystalline silica in the workplace every year. Crystalline silica is a mineral present in many common products, and sometimes it is so small that people unknowingly inhale it. People who inhale crystalline silica are at a higher risk for numerous diseases, some of which are fatal. In response to these hazards, OSHA created new guidelines to limit preventable silica-related illnesses, injuries, and deaths.
What is Respirable Crystalline Silica?
Some forms of crystalline silica are referred to as “respirable” because they can be inhaled, as is often the case with people who are exposed to the mineral while working. Crystalline silica is found in the earth’s crust, as well as many different types of stone, sand, and mortar. Silica exposure is most common in certain industries or during particular workplace tasks, such as:
- Foundry (or metal) work;
- Sanding or drilling into grinding mortar, brick, concrete walls or blocks, stone countertops, or ceramic products;
- Crushing or cutting stone;
- Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”;
- Sawing concrete or brick, and:
- Abrasive blasting with sand
Breathing in silica in the workplace can result in catastrophic silica-related diseases. OSHA reports that workers exposed to silica are more likely to develop lung cancer, kidney disease, silicosis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Some of the silica-related diseases, such as silicosis, are incurable and usually result in disability and death.
OSHA’s New Safety Standard
OSHA created two different silica exposure standards: one for construction workers and the other for general industry and maritime employees. Since the administration has identified respirable crystalline silica as a recognizable workplace hazard, every employer is now required to take certain steps to protect his or her employees. OSHA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have identified several effective control measures that can limit cases of silica-related health problems. To read more about respirable crystalline silica and OSHA’s new standard, please visit: https://www.osha.gov/dsg/topics/silicacrystalline/.
Signs and Symptoms of Silica-Related Diseases
Different diseases and conditions cause different symptoms – and the same goes with exposure to respirable crystalline silica. Workers exposed to silica in the workplace may experience:
- Shortness of breath;
- Cyanosis, or bluish skin;
- Weakness and/or fatigue, and:
- Weight loss
If you are a general industry, construction or maritime worker who is experiencing any of the symptoms above, you should consult directly with a doctor. Some silica-related conditions are treatable while others, like silicosis, are not. If you or one of your loved ones was exposed to respirable crystalline silica in the workplace and became injured or ill as a result, a lawyer may be able to help. Contact a representative at our firm who can answer your questions and have an attorney review the details of your case for free.
Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Galfand Berger, LLP Represent Individuals Injured at Work
If you were injured at work, please contact the Philadelphia workers’ compensation attorneys at Galfand Berger, LLP. With offices located in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. To schedule a consultation, call us at 800-222-8792 or complete our online contact form.