A new rule announced by the United States Department of Labor last month targets silica dust exposure, drastically reducing allowable levels of exposure on construction sites by 80%, a level that Secretary of Labor Tom Perez says is needed for safety. Exposure to silica dust can lead to respiratory problems, silicosis, and cancer. About 2.3 million workers are exposed to silica dust in their line of work, often affecting workers in construction, manufacturing, fracking, and more.
The Department of Labor expects the new rules to prevent around 900 cases of silicosis, a disease that scars the lungs, and around 600 deaths each year. The rules will require less than 50 micrograms of silica per cubic meter of air; current construction site limits are 250 micrograms and general industry limits are 100 micrograms. Airborne silica dust can be prevented by using vacuums, wetting surfaces, and having personal protection respirators for workers.
While many workers have cheered the new policy, many representatives of industry were not as happy. Industry representatives claim that enforcing existing limits would have the same, or better effect. They also believe that the new rules are expensive and unnecessary. However, before issuing the new guidelines, the Department of Labor held hearings and took public comments, and also verified that the rule would be “economically and technologically feasible for every industry” that the new rules would apply to.
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Silicosis is a serious and sometimes fatal disease, and any action taken to reduce cases can be seen as a victory for workers. Perona, Langer, Beck, Serbin and Harrison Law Offices believes that the health and safety of workers should come first. We have won many court battles to expand the rights of injured Californian workers. If you’ve been injured at work, call our workers compensation attorneys at (800) 435-7542 for a free consultation. We are here to help.