Starting on June 23, employers in Pennsylvania and across the U.S. must comply with new rules limiting workers' exposure to respirable crystalline silica. To prepare employers and workers, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued a memorandum outlining the agency's enforcement schedule.
The new silica rule limits worker exposure to an average of 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air per 8-hour shift. It also mandates that employers install engineering controls for silica in their facilities, create silica control plans and offer medical exams to employees. Over the first month of enforcement, OSHA will offer compliance assistance to employers who make a genuine effort to follow the new standard. The agency will then offer interim enforcement guidance until it issues a final compliance directive.
Silica is a fine dust that can cause numerous health problems when inhaled. It is associated with the manufacture of glass, china and ceramics. Workers in the steel, tool and die and foundry industries are also frequently exposed. According to OSHA, the worst worker exposures occur during jobs that require abrasive blasting. The federal government estimates that approximately 2.3 million workers are currently exposed to crystalline silica in the United States.
Workers who become ill after exposure to crystalline silica are typically eligible to file for workers compensation benefits. These benefits may cover job-related medical expenses and temporary wage-replacement payments. If a worker is permanently disabled, long-term benefits could also be available. Workers may learn more about workers comp benefits by contacting an attorney to prepare a claim and push for the maximum settlement possible. If a claim is denied, legal counsel might file an appeal on a worker's behalf.
Source: DWM, "OSHA Issues Silica Standard Memorandum," June 12, 2018