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Exposure to toxic chemical continues in construction industry

Minnesota workers might like to know about the fate of some safety regulations issued by former President Barack Obama now that there is a new administration. While some have been waiting for new rules concerning silica on construction sites, further delays are on the horizon as President Trump appears poised to review existing and proposed federal regulations.

Silica dust is typically found in construction materials like granite and sand and could cause silicosis when high levels of the dust are inhaled. Silicosis is a respiratory disease that causes chronic lung problems and may lead to lung cancer. The Labor Department estimates that around 2.2 million workers in America are exposed to silica dust annually. Silica standards created by the Obama administration would save an estimated 600 lives or more every year and would limit the amount of silica that companies are allowed to expose workers to.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration said on April 6 that new regulations aimed at the construction industry would be postponed for at least three months since the requirements necessitate additional guidance. Workplace safety experts and unions have long been fighting for changes as the side effects of exposure to silica have been debated and researched for around 40 years. Worry now exists that the rule will be further delayed and weakened.

When workers are exposed to toxic chemicals on the job and suffer illnesses as a result, they can file claims for workers' compensation benefits claims to help pay for medical expenses and time off from work. In some cases, disputes may arise about whether one is entitled to benefits while an insufficient amount may be offered in other cases. Workers have the right to retain legal counsel when considering an offer or negotiating a settlement.

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