The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) held an emotional public event this spring at the International Masonry Institute in Bowie, Md., to discuss measures to curb lung cancer, silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and kidney disease by limiting workers’ exposure to respirable crystalline silica.
About 2.3 million workers are exposed to respirable crystalline silica in their workplaces, and many voiced their thoughts about the seriousness of the situation.
“It was just killing me and I had no idea,” said Tommy Todd, a bricklayer with lung cancer related to silica dust exposure. “It’s just a slow death.”
On June 23, OSHA issued the Final Rule, which contains two standards, one for construction and one for general industry and maritime (industries where material containing crystalline particulates is drilled, cut or crushed).
Both standards reduce the permissible exposure limit for crystalline silica and include employer requirements to protect workers, such as by limiting worker exposure through work practices and engineering controls; training workers; limiting their access to high exposure areas and providing medical exams to highly exposed workers.
OSHA estimates that the Final Rule will save over 600 lives and prevent more than 900 new cases of silicosis each year. The Final Rule is projected to provide net benefits of about $7.7 billion, annually.
Understand OSHA’s Final Rule: Protecting Workers from Silica – Webinar