Can Small Businesses Protect Workers from Silica Hazards?
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released a guide for helping small businesses protect workers from silica hazards. Workers can be exposed to crystalline silica while cutting, sanding or drilling brick, mortar, sand or concrete.
Industries where employers can put workers at risk include masonry, rock mining, stone cutting, quarrying, glass manufacturing and sandblasting.
Silica particles are 100 times smaller than a grain of sand, and are easily trapped in the lungs. Over time, silica particles cause various diseases. According to OSHA’s new guide, workers may develop silicosis, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or kidney disease.
How Do OSHA’s Guidelines Protect Workers from Silica Hazards?
OSHA suggests employers set up exposure control methods or alternative exposure control methods. Depending on which method employers choose, options for preventing exposure vary.
However, all employers should provide respiratory protection, restrict housekeeping practices that create silica dust and establish plans to control exposure. In addition, businesses can provide medical exams and train at-risk workers to avoid silica hazards. Businesses should also keep relevant medical records of employees.
What Happens to Workers Who Develop Silicosis?
Although workers can develop other occupational diseases from silica exposure, silicosis is one of the most common ailments. Workers who develop silicosis may experience shortness of breath, fatigue, severe coughing, chest pains, fever and discoloration of the lips.
Returning to work with these symptoms may be problematic. Workers in our state who develop silicosis can contact an Ohio workers compensation attorney to explore options for replacing lost income and covering medical expenses.