The United States Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently announced a final rule which is designed to improve protections currently in place for workers who are exposed to respirable silica dust. The new rule is supposed to limit workers’ exposure to respirable crystalline silica, which should, in turn, curb lung cancer, silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and kidney disease in those employees. As such, OSHA estimates that this rule, once fully effective, will save more than 600 lives annually and prevent more than 900 new cases of silicosis each year. Additionally, OSHA claims there will be net benefits of roughly $7.7 billion per year.
“More than 80 years ago, Labor Secretary Frances Perkins identified silica dust as a deadly hazard and called on employers to fully protect workers,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez. “This rule will save lives. It will enable workers to earn a living without sacrificing their health. It builds upon decades of research and a lengthy stakeholder engagement process – including the consideration of thousands of public comments – to finally give workers the kind of protection they deserve and that Frances Perkins had hoped for them.”
“The previous exposure limits were outdated and did not adequately protect workers,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. “Limiting exposure to silica and concrete dust is essential. Every year, many exposed workers not only lose their ability to work but also to breathe. Today, we are taking action to bring worker protections into the 21st century in ways that are feasible and economical for employers to implement.”
If you own a business which employs any of the 2.3 million employees nationwide who are exposed to respirable crystalline silica, it is important to have your occupational safety and health policies and procedures reviewed to ensure continued compliance, as the new rules can have dramatic impacts on exposure limits, engineering controls, and concrete training guidelines.
If you have any questions about how this new rule will impact your business, please contact us. If you have anything to add about the changes, please leave a comment.