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Revised silica dust limits could prevent fatal workplace illness

In any kind of job, workers may face the risk of becoming injured or contracting an industrial illness. Despite the fact that freak accidents can happen, employers can take steps to minimize the risk associated with occupational hazards.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is one public agency helps employees by establishing and enforcing standards for workplace safety. Not long ago, OSHA suggested changes to a critical safety regulation that has been unchanged for 40 years. Under the proposal, silica dust exposure would be dramatically reduced across all industries. Workers who are exposed to the fine particles are susceptible to silicosis, which is a potentially fatal workplace illness that causes damage to the respiratory system.

Specifically, OSHA's plan would cut silica dust exposure by at least 50 percent across the board. At the same time, the construction industry would see an 80 percent decrease in dust exposure. These changes have been suggested for many years, according to reports, but they have consistently met resistance from the impacted industries.

Although at least 2 million American workers are exposed to silica dust on the job every year, the construction industry is particularly impacted by this problem. Tasks such as cutting stone materials or using jackhammers are known to send fine particles into the air and workers inhale them.

The hope is that OSHA's proposal moves forward and employers comply with the changes. Employees deserve to feel as safe as possible on the job, and this is one step to help accomplish this.

Even if workplace silica dust levels are markedly reduced, there will still be a chance that workers will contract silicosis and other related illnesses. If this is the case, then they may be eligible for workers' compensation benefits to provide support while they deal with health problems and work toward recovery.

Source: Associated Press, "OSHA seeks new limits on silica dust," Aug. 23, 2013

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