Exposure to crystalline silica is a major health hazard for many workers in Minnesota. Breathing crystalline silica into the lungs can cause workers to suffer from a disease called silicosis. Crystalline silica exposure can also lead to lung cancer, kidney disease and obstructive pulmonary disease. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration estimates that around 2.3 million workers in the United States are regularly exposed to silica dust on the job, most of whom are in the construction industry.
OSHA has issued a final rule about crystalline silica exposure that will go into effect on June 23, 2016. The new rule limits the permissible exposure level for crystalline silica dust to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air. Employers must work to control crystalline silica levels in workplaces and provide workers with respirators if they are unable to lower the PEL sufficiently. Under the new rule, employers are also required to offer workers medical exams if they have been exposed to high levels of crystalline silica.
In addition to construction workers, exposure can result from fracking and brick manufacturing as well as certain maritime activities. According to the federal workplace safety agency, the new crystalline silica rule will save more than 600 lives each year.
Silicosis and other occupational diseases related to crystalline silica exposure can develop gradually. People who believe that they have symptoms of a disease related to crystalline silica exposure may want to talk to an attorney about filing a workers’ compensation claim. Although workers’ compensation is often associated with workplace accidents, benefits can be available for those who develop occupational diseases as well. As many insurers will challenge an illness as not being contracted on the job, it may be advisable to have the assistance of an attorney in obtaining all of the relevant medical information.