The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) approved new silica exposure limits for workers. In the spring of 2016, regulators signed off on new rules that drop the legally acceptable amount of daily silica exposure by half. The new silica exposure regulations, if followed by employers, will help make workplaces safer across the country.
The new rule limits silica exposure to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air. Previously 250 micrograms and 100 micrograms, for construction and non-construction fields respectively, were the guidelines. This is the first time in 45 years the government-mandated levels have dropped.
What types of injuries and illnesses are possible if workers are exposed to dangerous silica levels? Silicosis is one. It's a chronic long disease with no cure. Other medical issues include tuberculosis, lung cancers, COPDs (chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases), and other respiratory illnesses.
The new limits are not the only revised rules. The regulations now also impose employers to use certain methods to minimize exposure, monitor levels, conduct worker training and provide medical exams. This places an additional administration and financial burden on employers, but the potential benefit of saving lives and preventing painful illnesses for workers might be the outcome. Although the rules were approved this year, compliance begins June 2017 for construction companies, and 2018 for non-construction employers.