Today’s post was shared by Gelman on Workplace Injuries and comes from www.aflcio.org
Strengthening the silica standard has been discussed and delayed for far too long. In fact, I have written about this issue on Facebook and other social media, but more work needs to be done to make these proposed standards both stronger and implemented.
In the past 18 months or so, National Public Radio has also had a couple of excellent in-depth reports on the dangers of silica in the workplace. While this discussion over updating standards from the 1970s has been ongoing, a relatively new industry, fracking, has been identified as being a likely problem for exposure that “has been shown to sometimes lead to serious diseases like silicosis and cancer,” according to this NPR report. Although workers wore respirators, there was a lot of silica dust in the air at job sites studied relatively recently. “… About one-third of the air samples they collected had such high levels of silica, the type of respirators typically worn wouldn’t offer enough protection.”
This issue is important to folks in Nebraska and Iowa because of the sand and gravel industries in our states and the exposure that workers have from other industrial uses. “A number of employer groups in such industries as sand and gravel, brick, fracking where silica dust is prevalent, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other corporate groups have or will testify against the proposed rule …”
I think this rule is essential to protecting workers’ health. And it needs to be as strong as scientific best practices suggest. I would urge OSHA to implement the proposals after years of discussion. Because, as the article below says, “Every day that a final standard is delayed, workers will continue to be at increased risk of disease and death.”
Trying to prevent those tragic results calls for action now.
While the AFL-CIO “strongly supports” a proposed new rule that would limit workers’ exposure to silica dust, AFL-CIO Safety and Health Director Peg Seminario outlined several areas that should be strengthened to provide better worker protection from deadly silicosis and other diseases caused by silica exposure.
Testifying before an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) hearing, Seminario noted that changes to the current exposure standard—now more than 40 years old—were first proposed in 1997 and that when the proposed new standard was sent for review to the Office of Management and Budget in 1991, it lingered there for two-and-a-half years.
Every day that a final standard is delayed, workers will continue to be at increased risk of disease and death.
Every year some 2 million workers are exposed to silica dust and, according to public health experts, more than 7,000 workers develop silicosis and 200 die each year as a result of this disabling lung disease. Silicosis literally suffocates workers to death. Silica is also linked to deaths from lung cancer, pulmonary and kidney diseases.
Seminario said that permissible exposure limit in the proposed standard while set at half the current level is still too high. She urged that a stricter standard be included in the final and said that other provisions in the standard should be strengthened, including: