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OSHA makes silica exposure a priority with new fines

New fines have been put in place by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for violations of the crystalline silica standard that became law in 2013. Constructions workers in New Jersey who cut, sand, saw or drill concrete or brick materials must follow safety protocols to avoid dangerous levels of exposure to health-harming silica dust.

To comply with regulations, construction companies must provide respiratory masks or instruct their workers to wet-cut the building materials. Failure to meet safety standards will result in hefty fines. Each violation incurs a $12,934 fine plus another $12,934 per day until compliance is achieved. Repeat offenses could raise fines as high as $129,336.

The severity of the fines illustrates the seriousness of silica exposure. When people breathe in the dust, they could develop respiratory diseases, including cancer, silicosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Silica exposure could also cause kidney disease. OSHA calculates that 2.3 million workers experience exposure to the hazardous dust.

A disease that results from workplace activity qualifies as an occupational disease that might entitle a sickened worker to workers’ compensation benefits. Obtaining medical evidence that a workplace environment caused an illness sometimes proves challenging. A person trying to file a claim for benefits may reach out to an attorney for legal support.

An attorney may be able to help someone overcome barriers to benefits set up by the employer or insurer. With legal representation, the person might see an independent physician and gain an unbiased medical exam. An attorney may be able to organize the evidence and prepare paperwork for the insurance claim. Direct communications with the insurer on the person’s behalf might result in a settlement. Otherwise, an attorney may recommend filing a lawsuit to pursue compensation for medical expenses and lost income.