If you work in a Pennsylvania industry where respirable crystalline silica poses a threat, you may be all too aware of the consequences of exposure. Breathing in tiny particles of silica can lead to a number of serious occupational illnesses, including silicosis, lung cancer and kidney disease. Some industries, such as construction, have particularly high rates of exposure to silica dust, often produced by grinding or sanding rock, concrete or brick. These industries often have specific rules about how workers may be protected from exposure, but contact with respirable silica can be just as dangerous to employees in other occupations.
OSHA enforcement for silica violations
In the general industry category, most companies that were cited by OSHA for violations of workplace safety rules about crystalline silica failed to assess workers’ risk of exposure. If your employer does not accurately assess your risk of silica exposure by measuring quantities in the air, you may be at risk of developing silicosis or other diseases, especially if you are not equipped with the proper personal protective equipment. Other companies were cited for failing to develop a written plan to control exposure. Without a plan in place for sufficient communications, workers could be at an additional risk of harm. Other companies received citations because workers faced silica exposure above the legal limit.
Dangers of silica exposure
Silicosis is perhaps the most common and serious disease caused by occupational silica exposure. Silica dust often cannot be expelled by the lungs. Instead, it settles in place and scar tissue forms around the area. As the amount of scar tissue grows, an affected worker may find it increasingly difficult to breathe normally. In most cases, people develop silicosis after over a decade of toxic exposure at work, and the damage is visible on a chest x-ray. The condition is incurable and may lead to disability, inability to work, severe pain and even death.
Exposure to respirable crystalline silica can pose a serious threat to workers’ health. If you have been injured on the job due to your employer’s violations of workplace safety regulations, a lawyer may help you to seek compensation.