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OSHA proposes new rule to reduce silica exposure

Workers in the construction and fracturing industry face many hazards in the workplace. One of the biggest hazards they face is being exposed to silica. Silica is a harmful toxin that can cause serious health issues, including cancer and lung disease, in workers who inhale silica in high volumes or over an extended amount of time. 

Construction workers involved in pulverizing concrete and other activities that involve silica-containing materials have a high risk of inhaling dangerous amounts of silica that can cause serious health conditions and workplace illnesses in the future. 

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration reports that over two million workers are exposed to silica in the workplace. To address the safety risks workers face when working with silica, OSHA recently proposed a new rule that would limit the amount of silica exposure to workers in the U.S. 

OSHA's proposed rule would lower the silica exposure limit to 50 micrograms of respirable crystalline silica per cubic meter. The rule would apply to general industries, the construction industry and in shipyards. The proposed rule would cut the exposure limit in half as the current limit is 100 micrograms and reports show that the limit in the construction industry is even higher. 

OSHA believes the lower limit would prevent 700 workplace fatalities and prevent 1,600 cases of silicosis in workers every year. 

The agency is currently accepting comments on their proposed rule and said that a coalition of construction associations will help them develop a final rule that will protect workers without creating an expensive burden for employers. 

Silica exposure is very dangerous for workers, especially under the current rules by OSHA. Workplace safety advocates are hoping that the current proposal will become the final rule to keep all workers safe from dangerous toxic exposure. 

Source: EHS Today, "Construction Trade Groups Push OSHA for 'Practical' Silica Rule," Josh Cable, Sept. 6, 2013

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