Recently, construction industry groups filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking to block new safety rules regarding exposure to silica dust. The new rules require employers to do more to protect their employees from the risks of exposure, and update the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) silica exposure standards for the first time in nearly 50 years.
Exposure to crystalline silica – the fine dust that workers breathe in when they work with materials such as concrete and stone – is known to cause a number of serious and sometimes fatal medical conditions, including:
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
- Kidney disease
- Lung cancer
In short, the less exposure construction workers have to silica dust, the lower their risk of suffering from these diseases. So, why are construction companies so opposed to doing more to protect their employees?
The answer is simple: Money.
Construction Companies Oppose Costs of New Silica Dust Standards
Although OSHA has estimated the cost of compliance with the new rules at around $659 million per year, some analysts say the cost could actually be as high as $4.9 billion. While this may sound like a lot, keep in mind that the construction industry rakes in more than $1.7 trillion every year. Also keep in mind that construction workers’ health – and in many cases their lives – are on the line. In fact, due to the benefits of limiting construction workers’ exposure, OSHA says that the rule will actually provide an overall net financial benefit of $7.7 billion per year.
Despite the obvious benefits, many construction companies still oppose the new rules – and have decided to fight against it in court. They argue that compliance is not economically feasible; or, essentially, that the benefits to their workers just aren’t worth it.
What the New Standards Require
Roughly two million construction workers in New York City and nationwide face exposure to silica dust in the workplace. While the equipment needed to limit workers’ exposure is widely available, many construction companies simply refuse to meet OSHA’s requirements for protecting their employees. OSHA’s new silica dust rule requires employers to do things like:
- Reduce silica dust exposure to half of the current permissible level
- Use water, ventilation or other controls to limit workers’ exposure to silica dust
- Provide respiratory protection for workers when other controls are not feasible
- Train workers who are exposed to silica dust and limit access to high-exposure areas
- Provide medical exams to highly-exposed workers
The new rules are in effect for the construction industry as of June 23, 2016. Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait for the construction industry’s court battles to end before we’ll know for certain whether workers can expect to benefit from the new protections.
Have You Been Exposed to Silica Dust? Call Gorayeb & Associates Today
If you have contracted lung cancer or any other disease as a result of exposure to silica dust on a construction site in New York City, you may be entitled to financial compensation. To learn more about your legal rights, call Gorayeb & Associates at (877) 377-3726 or contact us online to speak with one of our New York City injury lawyers.