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Silica hazard rules to be enforced with tougher fines

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has instituted penalties for construction companies violating standards for silica in Pennsylvania and across the United States. As of January 2018, OSHA changed the fines that construction companies will have to pay if they violate the standards for crystalline silica that was created in 2013.

Under the revised fine system, companies will have to pay $12,934 for each violation, $12,934 for each day that the company does not make changes to come up to standards as well as up to $129,336 for ongoing and repeated violations, according to OSHA. Since 2013, there have been major changes to safety standards for crystalline silica. This is a form of dust particle created when workers cut into concrete, saw bricks, sand concrete walls or engage in fracking.

OSHA estimates that approximately 2.3 million people across the country are exposed to silica dust. Silica exposure in the lungs and body can lead to lung cancer, kidney disease, silicosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD). Long-term exposure to silica can lead to clogged nodules in the lungs with symptoms similar to that of mesothelioma, another occupational disease developed through exposure to asbestos.

The revised standards require construction contractors to keep concrete wet in order to keep dust from flying into the air and into workers' lungs. In cases where concrete cannot be cut while wet, workers need to be equipped with respiratory masks that maintain a firm seal. Specialized training protocols help to lay out the precautions that should be taken relating to silica hazards.

Exposure to silica on the job, especially after years of working on various construction sites, can lead to the development of a devastating occupational disease. A workers' compensation lawyer can work with an individual who has been injured on the job to protect his or her rights. An attorney can help an injured worker seek compensation for lost wages, medical expenses and other damages.

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