Until July 23, companies in Pennsylvania and throughout the country were not cited for making good faith efforts to comply with the Respirable Crystalline Silica Standard. However, companies are now being cited for violations regardless of their efforts to comply with it. To be considered in compliance, employers must have a written silica control plan as well as evidence that it has been implemented.
They must also take air samples and routinely assess the level to which their workers have been exposed to airborne silica. Furthermore, an employer must take steps to provide medical surveillance if certain criteria are met. For instance, if a worker is exposed to more than the permissible exposure limit (PEL) for more than 30 days a year, surveillance is necessary. However, this does not apply if exposure occurred while working for another employer.
According to OSHA, employers should not make a habit of rotating employees out of areas to avoid this 30-day threshold. OSHA says that doing so may not be an effective way to keep exposure under the PEL. Furthermore, those who need medical attention are allowed to receive it at no cost to the employee. Appointments must be made available at a time and place that is convenient for the person seeking treatment. Finally, employers should ask workers about their exposure levels and if medical attention has been offered to them.
The long-term effects of silica exposure could include an increased risk of cancer or lung disease. Those who are required to work in a toxic environment may also experience increased stress and decreased morale. Workers who contract an occupational disease may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. They may be offered on a permanent or temporary basis depending on a person’s ability to work again. An attorney can often assist with the preparation and submission of the required claim documentation.