The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) is delaying a new rule reducing the maximum permissible exposure level to silica dust in certain industries. The 90-day delay will allow the DOL to contact those who could be impacted by the rule and to provide educational materials and guidance to employers.
The rule would reduce the current exposure limit of 100 micrograms per cubic meter to 50. It also requires employer-covered medical examinations. The rule could have a profound impact on the 2.2 million American workers the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) estimates are exposed to silica in various industries. Workers are exposed when they cut, grind, crush, or drill silica-containing materials such as concrete masonry, tile, and rock and inhale the resulting crystalline silica dust.
Silica is a known carcinogen that can cause both lung cancer and silicosis. Silicosis is a progressive, debilitating, and incurable disease that is marked by inflammation and scarring in the form of nodular lesions in the upper lobes of the lungs. Silica dust particles can create small cuts in the lung that can scar the lung tissue when inhaled over a prolonged period of time.
Industry groups argued that OSHA failed to show significant health risks justifying a lower threshold without any evidence that the current level caused harm to workers. Labor groups lauded the new rule, but also wanted additional regulations requiring employers to remove workers from dangerous exposure situations with pay if ordered by a doctor. The new rule is set to take effect on Sept. 23, 2017.
Lawyers in our Toxic Torts Section are investigating cases where individuals are diagnosed with silicosis. If you have any questions about this or other severe lung diseases, contact Chris Boutwell or Ryan Kral, lawyers in our Toxic Torts Section, at 800.898.2034 or by email at Chris.Boutwell@beasleyallen.com or Ryan.Kral@beasleyallen.com.
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