The Occupational Safety and Health Administration's new rule to limit exposure to respirable crystalline silica became effective in New Jersey and across the country on Sept. 23, but there is significant resistance to it. Some groups have resorted to the courts to call on the presidential administration to stop application of the rules that are claimed to cause financial ruin for some companies, despite the fact that prevention of silicosis will save millions of dollars in medical expenses. However, OSHA says the agency will assist businesses that show a willingness to comply.
OSHA maintains that the new regulations will positively affect approximately two million employees and prevent 900 cases of silicosis per year. The agency further estimates the rule will save the lives of 600 workers each year. Those opposed to the law claim a 95 percent drop in reported illnesses related to silica over the past four decades.
The federal safety agency provided several ways in which companies can comply. The aim is to measure and reduce silica dust exposure from the previous permissible level of 250 micrograms of silica particles per cubic meter of air during each eight-hour shift, to only 50 micrograms. Other requirements include written control plans, medical examinations, safety training, specific record keeping of exposure to silica, medical exams and more.
While the groups opposing the new rule argue that the cost of compliance is too high, companies and workers may benefit from escaping the high medical expenses that silica-related illnesses can bring. Employers may not realize that workers' compensation claims will affect their insurance premiums and, ultimately, the bottom line. New Jersey employees who have been exposed to respirable crystalline silica in the past can pursue claims for workers' compensation benefits for coverage of medical expenses and lost wages.
Source: equipmentworld.com, "Challenges continue as new dust-control rules take effect for construction industry", Don McLoud, Sept. 27, 2017