Silica Dust Exposure Continues to Be a Problem for Construction Workers

Employees at workplaces where exposure to toxins is high don’t always receive the necessary safety information, creating lethal situations. Although the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has safety standards in place regarding a specific type of hazard—silica—a new report finds that more needs to be done to reduce the number of workers seriously or fatally injured through exposure.

Silica has been linked to a variety of health conditions including kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lung cancer and silicosis (lung disease caused by inhalation of silica dust). Although regulations currently in place have reduced the number of deaths caused by exposure, this recent report suggests that it continues to be a problem.

Approximately 320,000 workers in the United States are exposed to silica dust. The industry with the highest risk is construction. It is oftentimes inhaled when cutting, drilling, crushing or grinding materials that contain silica—such as tile, masonry, rock and concrete. Other industries with higher rates of exposure include pottery, foundry work, hydraulic fracturing in gas/oil wells, sandblasting and bricklaying.

OSHA provides a list of control measures that could prevent or reduce silica dust exposure, such as the following: 

  • limiting exposure time;
  • mandating workers shower and change clothes before leaving worksite;
  • wearing personal protective clothing (including respiratory protection);
  • proper ventilation;
  • using a substitute such as crystalline silica; and
  • containment (blast-cleaning cabinets/machines, wet drilling/sawing material containing silica).

Illness that is caused by toxic exposure at work may allow for an injured worker to receive workers’ comp benefits. In some cases however, if a third party is to blame, for defective equipment, for example, then it might allow for a claim to be filed against the individual/company. To better understand one’s rights if exposed to a hazardous toxin or chemical during the scope of one’s employment, don’t hesitate to seek legal counsel. An attorney can explain options that may be available at Gacovino, Lake & Associates in New York (800) 550-0000.

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