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Workplace illness: New silica rules good news for workers

Employees in different industries in New York may be happy to learn that employers who tried to stop the new silica rule were unsuccessful. Industry leaders who dispute the need for regulations that are stricter asked a federal appeals court to prevent implementation, but a panel of judges found that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration offered adequate evidence to motivate the enforcement of the new rules. The safety agency claims the new precautions will prevent those who are exposed to silica from contracting a potentially deadly workplace illness called silicosis.

The new silica rules require employers to limit exposure to dust to much lower levels than previously. After postponing the effective date of implementation by 90 days, OSHA gave a further grace period of 30 days, during which time regional administrators and construction companies received counseling. Additional assistance is provided through guidance related to inspections and citations that will apply.

Some of those who are against the new rules claim the cost burden as justification for their arguments, while others have already taken several steps to comply. Furthermore, manufacturers of equipment have shown their support by designing additional dust-capturing products. Each industry has unique challenges about the implementation of the new rules, but OSHA will continue to provide assistance.

Silicosis is a devastating illness that can severely hamper an affected worker's quality of life -- if they survive the deadly accumulation of crystalline silica particles in their lungs. Although the new rule might prevent future damage to the health of workers, those who are already silicosis sufferers may seek financial assistance through the New York workers' compensation insurance system. Proving a workplace illness that developed over time to be job-related could be challenging, and the best person to navigate such a claim might be an experienced workers' compensation attorney.

Source: constructiondive.com, "OSHA's silica rule now fully enforced", Mary Tyler March, Oct. 23, 2017

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