The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued its final rule regarding respirable crystalline silica exposure on December 22. The high court rejected all industry challenges.
The rule that will remain in effect for the construction industry reduces the permissible exposure limit meant to keep workers safe. The limit is now set at an average of 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air over a typical 8-hour workday. The provisions will be put in place on June 23, 2018.
Groups asked the high court to review five key issues:
- Will reduced PEL cause a significant decrease in health with regards to silica exposure?
- Is the rule “technologically feasible for the foundry, hydraulic fracturing and construction industries”?
- Is the rule economically feasible for those industries?
- Has OSHA violated the Administrative Procedure Act?
- And questions regarding evidence supporting two ancillary provisions
What Is Crystalline Silica?
Quartz is the most common type of crystalline silica. It is a natural material found in sand, stone and soil. When it is in dust form and can be breathed in, it is called respirable crystalline silica. This respirable crystalline silica is often found on construction sites, as a byproduct of blasting, digging and other activities that are disruptive to the earth, concrete or brick.
Cancer and Crystalline Silica
There is an elevated risk of lung cancer for people who are exposed to respirable crystalline silica. Lung cancer has been linked to exposure for people who work in industries involving pottery, refractory brick and more.
Lung cancer isn’t the only risk for those exposed to respirable crystalline silica. Silicosis is a condition that is separated into three classes: acute, accelerated and chronic/classic. Acute silicosis occurs within a few months or as long as two years following exposure. Accelerated silicosis occurs within 5 to 10 years of high levels of exposure. Chronic/classic silicosis occurs after 15 to 20 years of low to moderate exposure.
Silicosis is a condition that causes scar tissue in the lungs. This scar tissue makes it difficult for the lungs to take in adequate amounts of oxygen, making it difficult for people with the condition to breathe normally. There is no cure for silicosis.
Those in the construction industry and in other industries in which workers are routinely experienced to silica dust should provide safety equipment to reduce that exposure. Employees should be giving training in safe practices and meals should not be eaten in areas where crystalline silica is present.
If you believe that you have been exposed to silica at your place of employment in San Luis Obispo and have suffered illness as a result, please contact our office. We have experience standing up for injured workers and we will put our knowledge to work for you. Call today to arrange for your free case evaluation.