This year, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, finally passed new standards involving silica inhalation, which it had been working on for several years.
To date, many contractors and construction companies in New York will need to revise their practices involving silica to avoid fines and ensure their workers remain safe.
The biggest issue is measuring the amount of silica dust in the air around workers, as the new regulations are only for situations in which a certain amount is regularly present. Failure to follow these new standards as of September 23rd, 2017, can result in serious fines from OSHA.
Why the New Standards?
These new standards are largely an effort to prevent serious health issues, including silicosis, which are caused by extensive inhalation of silica dust. “Silica dust” is small particles of silica created by cutting or grinding materials like concrete, stone, and brick. The dust is 100 times smaller than grains of sand, which allows it to pass into the lungs and create serious health problems, including lung cancer and kidney disease.
Who Has to Follow These Standards?
The previous silica standards stated that silica dust particles had to be limited to 250 micrograms per cubic meter of air over an average work shift of eight hours. The revised standards reduce that limit to 50 micrograms.
Measuring the amount of silica dust in the air can be quite difficult, but is the first step in applying these new standards. However, companies running a workplace where silica dust does not go up beyond 25 micrograms in an eight-hour period do not have to adhere to the new requirements.
The new standards also include a written silica exposure control plan, training workers about silica, and providing medical exams for some workers every three years.
Penalties for Non-Compliance
Any company or contractor who must follow the new standards but fails to do so can be fined quite heavily. An initial fine for non-compliance can be over $12,000, then another $12,000 per day should the company fail to correct the issue in a timely manner, and an additional $126,000 for a repeated or willful violation. For those who need help figuring these new standards out, the Associated General Contractors of America and OSHA itself can offer assistance, as can most workers’ compensation insurance companies.
If you or a loved one has been injured at the workplace, due to silica inhalation or any other type of toxic exposure, then call us at Wingate, Russotti, Shapiro & Halperin, LLP, today at (212) 986-7353 to discuss your case.