Construction Workers Safer with New OSHA Silica Standard

Construction sites are dusty places, but does that make them dangerous? If the dust contains pulverized rock or concrete there is more concern. One study showed silicosis deaths in the construction industry are higher than any other industry in the United States. Construction workers are clearly at risk of developing silicosis and other lung diseases if they breathe high levels of concrete and rock dust. However, levels fluctuate because of the nature of construction work which also makes air monitoring challenging on construction sites. To gather enough information about the wide range of construction activities, air monitoring information was pooled from regulators in Washington, Oregon, and the Chicago OSHA office; universities and other research groups; and several construction contractors. This information was collected and analyzed at the University of Washington.

With the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, Congress created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance. The new OSHA standard for silica is a welcome and long overdue step towards safer job sites for the many millions of workers who suffer from its deadly impacts. LIUNA has advocated with our allies in the Building Trades for a stronger standard on silica exposure for many years. For too long, workers in the construction industry have been needlessly exposed to silica-related diseases. With implementation of this rule, millions of construction workers – including the hardworking men and women of LIUNA – will be safer on the job.

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