New Silica Rules a Breath of Fresh Air for Workers
The Occupational Health & Safety Administration has issued new rules that will limit workers permissible exposure to silica dust to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air inhaled during a typical 8-hour shift. Crystalline silica dust presents a serious health risk to miners, industrial workers, and construction professionals who handle the material on a regular basis.
Like many workers, miners have put their health at considerable risk to do their job. In order to reduce the risk of workers developing serious health problems caused from the inhalation of silica particulates, OSHA’s new rules are expected to help improve the lives of the many thousands of miners throughout the state. Illinois mines are a rich source of silica used throughout the nation to make everything from glass and water filters, to golf balls and bedding for dairy cattle.
“These enhanced rules are long overdue. Indeed, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health recommended these exposure limits in 1974. Since that time exhaustive studies have shown that the inhalation of crystalline silica presents serious health risks to workers,” lamented Illinois workers’ compensation lawyer Neal B. Strom.
OSHA estimates that these new rules will save up to 600 lives per year, and prevent nearly 900 cases of silicosis and other lung diseases each year. Critics argue that the new rules will cost upwards of $1 billion per year to implement, however, proponents such as the AFL-CIO counter that these changes will save nearly $8 billion in benefit expenditures.
“Several petitions have been filed challenging the new rules. Critics argue they go too far and will cost too much to implement. However, given the scientific evidence showing the dangers of crystalline silica exposure, it is unlikely that these challenges will be successful. As such, it looks like these new rules will begin providing reliable protection to workers when they go into effect later this year,” commented Illinois workers’ compensation lawyer Neal B. Strom.