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OSHA issues fact sheet on silica exposure standards

Oklahoma maritime and general industry employers should be aware that the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued a compliance fact sheet on standards for worker exposure to respirable crystalline silica. Studies have shown that crystalline silica, which is found in stone, artificial stone and sand, can cause cancer. Exposed workers can also develop a chronic lung disease known as silicosis.

OSHA's final rule for respirable crystalline silica standards went into effect in June 2016. The rule lowered the allowable exposure limit for silica to an average of 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air per eight-hour shift. Maritime and general industries employers were given until June 23, 2018, to comply with most requirements. These requirements include mandatory protections for employees working around silica, training programs for employees, the assessment of work site exposures and written exposure reduction plans.

Maritime and general industry employers have until June 23, 2020, to provide medical screenings for workers exposed to an average of 25 or more micrograms per cubic meter of air per eight-hour shift for at least 30 days each year. Oil and gas industry employers involved in hydraulic fracturing have until June 23, 2021, to reduce worker silica exposures to the new standards. According to federal statistics, approximately 2.3 million U.S. workers are currently exposed to respirable crystalline silica dust, largely in the construction industry.

Workers exposed to silica dust are at risk of developing a number of serious respiratory diseases, including lung cancer. Most workers who become ill from silica exposure are eligible to file a workers' compensation benefits claim. Many people find it helpful to speak with an attorney familiar with workplace safety issues before doing so.

Source: Safety + Health, "New OSHA fact sheet addresses silica rule for general industry, maritime", Feb. 26, 2018

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