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Silica rules aim to reduce occupational hazards

For workers in West Virginia who are employed in jobs where silica exposure is a possibility, it's important to take special safety precautions. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued rules for silica exposure as well as a fact sheet that seeks to guide employers into compliance with these standards. OSHA has put in place a mandate for employers to provide protection against silica exposure by offering training, establishing plans to deal with exposure and thoroughly assessing the potential for exposure.

The rule lowers the permissible exposure limit for crystalline silica to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air, measured through an eight-hour workday. A known carcinogen, crystalline silica is found in a number of products, including sand, stone and artificial stone. Exposure to silica, particularly the inhalation of small particles of silica dust, can cause silicosis. This chronic disorder causes scarring in the lungs and places severe limits on breathing and respiration. The disease begins when workers inhale tiny particles of silica dust on the job. When these particles enter the lungs, they trigger an immune response that eventually leads to severe lung injuries due to occupational disease.

There are 2.3 million workers in the country that are exposed regularly to silica dust, including 2 million working in the construction industry. The regulations went into effect in June 2016, but OSHA has given industries a deadline of June 2018 to come into compliance.

An employee who has developed an occupational disease like silicosis due to exposure to silica and other toxic materials could seek compensation for their medical bills and other expenses. A lawyer can help an injured worker navigate the system for obtaining workers' compensation.

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