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Crystalline silica exposure rules for workers

Oklahoma workers may have heard that a final ruling has been made by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for the protection of those who may be exposed to crystalline silica. One standard applies to the construction industry while there is another that applies to maritime and other occupations.

According to OSHA, crystalline silica, which workers may breathe in, may affect as many as 2 million workers in the construction industry who work with materials that contain silica such as stone and concrete. In addition, about 300,000 workers who are employed in trades such as foundry work, fracking and brick manufacturing may be affected. While many employers use equipment to control silica dust through the use of water or vacuum systems, the new OSHA ruling includes specific standards that must be adopted in the future.

Key provisions include monitoring workers who are overly exposed through the use of medical exams and informing them of the state of health of their lungs. Employers must use methods to limit exposure to OSHA's designated limit and include training workers on the risks of silica and ways to limit exposure. Respirators must be supplied to workers in areas where exposure is high.

Workers who are exposed to crystalline silica may develop conditions such as silicosis, lung cancer, kidney disease or pulmonary disease. A worker who becomes ill because of inadequate workplace safety precautions might want to meet with an attorney to see what recourse may be available. Workers' compensation benefits may be available for occupational diseases as well as injury accidents, but since the nexus between an illness and job site conditions may be difficult to prove in some cases, the assistance of an attorney in preparing a claim could be advisable.

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