GWC is pleased to share the news that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has proposed a new, long-awaited rule that would significantly reduce workers exposure to silica dust. Crystalline silica, or silica dust, is created during work with stone, concrete, brick or mortar. It also commonly results from glass manufacturing and sand blasting. When these tiny particles enter a workers lungs, they can cause lung cancer and silicosis, a progressive and incurable respiratory disease. Over two million workers are exposed to silica, according to Peg Seminario, director of safety and health for the AFL/CIO.
Current permissible exposure levels are 250 micrograms per cubic meter of air in the construction industry and 100 micrograms per cubic meter of air in general industry and maritime. OSHAs new proposal would cut the limits to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air across the board. It would also require businesses to periodically measure silica levels and offer medical testing to workers who are exposed 30 or more days per year. If implemented, these measures are expected to prevent approximately 1,600 new cases of silicosis and nearly 700 deaths each year.
It would cost industry an expected $640 million to comply with the new rules. Thus, not surprisingly, business groups have voiced strong opposition to OSHAs proposal. But according to Dr. David Michaels, OSHAs assistant secretary of labor, the expenses would be distributed amongst thousands of companies, and overall, the financial benefits would greatly outweigh the costs associated with implementing the rules. Dr. Michaels explained that the rules would affect 534,000 businesses (90% of which are construction companies), meaning that the average cost of compliance per company would be only $1,242.00. For companies with fewer than 20 employees, the cost would be even less: $550.00 on average. In addition to saving hundreds of lives every year, the estimated financial benefits would exceed $4 billion. It is so unfortunate that big business interest groups continue to emphasize the bottom line on their balance sheets instead of recognizing the nominal costs associated with these types of life-saving measures. So the fight by organized labor, OSHA and firms like GWC will continue on in our efforts to improve jobsite safety and enhance the quality of life for tens of thousands of construction workers in Illinois.
Dr. Michaels reported that the public would have 90 days to submit written comments about the new proposals before public hearings took place. GWC applauds any effort to improve workers safety and we, therefore, wholeheartedly support OSHAs most recent proposal.
In our continuing effort to enhance safety in the workplace, we will keep you updated on this important issue as it progresses. Contact one of out lawyers like Personal Injury Attorney Michael Goldberg for more information.