Impact of Silica Enforcement ProgramAugust 10, 2018
The construction industry was among the first to begin enforcing new standards for silica exposure, after the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) first proposed the new rule. Exposure to crystalline silica can cause a range of serious health issues, including lung cancer, kidney disease, and other respiratory conditions.
By enforcing these new standards, workers in the construction industry, and others who are exposed to silica, can avoid many of the health hazards associated with this potentially toxic material.
The new rule, which was approved by OSHA in 2016, covers over two million workers who may have been exposed to dangerous levels of silica. Construction workers tend to be exposed to silica more than other workers, because it is found in many industrial products that are used at construction sites. This includes concrete, sand, stone and mortar, as well as glass, bricks, concrete, and artificial stone.
When OSHA announced the new rule, officials claimed that it would prevent approximately 600 silica-related deaths each year. In addition, they anticipate that more than 900 new cases of silicosis would be prevented.
Unfortunately, as of April 2018, OSHA had issued 117 violations to construction employers, 80 percent of which were considered serious. Many of these violations were also accompanied by other violations, like a failure to meet fall protection standards.
Violations During First Six Months of Silica Enforcement Program
Based on the following “big three” violations, employers have a lot of room to improve when it comes to being fully compliant with the silica in construction standard.
OSHA issued 35 citations for failure to conduct a risk assessment of exposure to respirable crystalline silica.
This was the most commonly-cited violation, which is not surprising, since OSHA’s main concern is if the employer is in compliance with the permissible exposure limits (PEL) and proper exposure assessment. The agency will certainly issue a citation if the employer has not conducted an exposure assessment.
Failure to Follow Requirements
There were 31 violations for failing to follow the list of equipment and tasks, as well as OSHA’s work control methods and respiratory protection.
These requirements are not mandatory, so the number of citations is a bit of a surprise. Regardless, if an employer at a construction site fails to follow the respiratory requirements for a piece of equipment, or a specific task, he or she must follow the alternative exposure control methods and conduct an exposure assessment.
No Written Exposure Plan
OSHA issued 20 citations for employers who did not have a written exposure plan.A written exposure control plan should include the following four elements:
- Engineering controls
- Work practices and respiratory protections necessary to protect employees from exposure when carrying out a specific task
- Housekeeping measures that help limit exposure to silica
- Procedures that restrict access to work areas in an effort to minimize the number of workers exposed to silica.
Baltimore Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Represent Employees Exposed to Silica
If you work at a construction site, and exposure to silica has caused you to suffer serious health issues, contact the Baltimore Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton. You are entitled to a safe, hazard-free work environment. If you were exposed to potentially dangerous levels of silica, we will we will work tirelessly to ensure that you receive the maximum financial benefits that you deserve. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 844-556-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.