Silica Rule and Its Impact on Construction Workers  

December 4th, 2017 by Guajardo & Marks, LLP

Crystalline silica is a dangerous substance that has been shown to cause serious disease. To protect workers in the construction industry from exposure to silica, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has enacted a new safety rule that affects construction companies working with respirable silica.

What Is Silica?

Crystalline silica is a common mineral found in the earth’s crust, as well as in mortar, concrete, stone, and sand. When silica particles are small enough to be inhaled into the lungs, the substance is known as “respirable crystalline silica.” In order to be respirable, silica particles must be at least 100 times smaller than ordinary sand. This form of silica is most often produced when mortar, block, brick, concrete, rock, or stone is subjected to crushing, drilling, grinding, sawing, or cutting. Workers in a variety of industries are exposed to respirable silica. Construction workers are especially at risk of exposure to this dangerous substance.

Why Is It Dangerous?

When workers inhale respirable crystalline silica, they are at an increased risk of developing certain diseases related to silica. One of the diseases a worker may contract is silicosis, an irreversible condition affecting the lungs that may lead to disability or even death. Long-term exposure to silica dust can also raise the worker’s risk of developing other serious complications, including kidney disease, lung cancer, pulmonary tuberculosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and certain autoimmune disorders. For this reason, limiting exposure to inhalable silica is extremely important for the sake of workers’ health.

Understanding OSHA’s Silica Rule

OSHA has limited silica exposure for many years, but they recently tightened these regulations. OSHA’s new rules regarding silica dust in the construction industry are designed to protect workers by limiting their exposure to this harmful carcinogen. Prior to this new rule, workers could be exposed to an average of as much as 250 micrograms per cubic meter of air during an eight-hour period of work. The new rule reduces this exposure limit to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air. According to NBC News, OSHA has estimated that this new guideline could save as many as 642 lives each year. OSHA also estimates that the new silica rule will prevent as many as 918 illnesses related to silica annually. Enforcement of most provisions of this new rule in the construction industry went into effect in September of 2017.

Dealing with Silica Exposure

Unfortunately, many construction workers were already exposed to significant amounts of silica dust prior to the creation of this rule. In addition, even with the new rule in place, it is still possible for construction workers to breathe in enough silica to cause health problems, especially with many years of exposure. If you have been harmed or a loved one has developed an illness or died because of silica exposure at work, you may be entitled to compensation. To ensure that you get the compensation you deserve, you need to take action as quickly as possible.
The attorneys of Guajardo & Marks of Dallas have more than 50 years of combined experience in the industry. Whatever your situation may be, they have the knowledge, skills, and resources to help you resolve your issue. To learn more or to set up an appointment, please contact our office today by calling 972-774-9800 or filling out our online contact form.