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OSHA proposes crystalline silica exposure protections

We frequently write about safety hazards in the workplace that can lead to serious work-related injuries. However, a staggering number of American workers are harmed not by injuries at work but by toxic exposure that leads to severe occupational illness. The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is currently attempting to curb some of the most serious illnesses individuals develop in the workplace through a newly proposed rule that would help to prevent toxic exposure to crystalline silica.

The assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health recently explained why this proposed rule is so critical for worker safety in the future. He noted that, "Exposure to silica can be deadly, and limiting that exposure is essential. Every year, exposed workers not only lose their ability to work, but also to breathe. This proposal is expected to prevent thousands of deaths from silicosis-an incurable and progressive disease-as well as lung cancer, other respiratory diseases and kidney disease."

Workers who regularly saw, crush, drill, sandblast or cut various materials including brick, concrete, stone and glass are at risk of dangerous exposure to crystalline silica. By enacting new worker safety protections specifically aimed at reducing toxic exposure to this substance, OSHA estimates that more than 600 lives can be saved annually and approximately 1,600 new silicosis cases may be prevented each year as well.

Too often, hazards in the workplace cannot be sufficiently eliminated. In the case of toxic crystalline silica exposure, new protections mandated by OSHA may actually wipe out devastating occupational illnesses related directly to this substance.

Source: United States Department of Labor, "US Department of Labor's OSHA announces proposed rule to protect workers exposed to crystalline silica," Aug. 23, 2013

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