New standards regarding workplace exposure to crystalline silica may come into effect over the next few years for construction workers in Louisiana and throughout the country. However, the standards are facing legal challenges. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, around 300,000 workers in general industry and 2 million workers who directly work with materials containing silica will be affected by the rule. The construction industry is supposed to begin complying with the rule on June 23, 2017. Workers in maritime and general industry as well as most workers in hydraulic fracturing will fall under the rule beginning June 23, 2018. The compliance date for engineering controls in hydraulic fracturing is June 23, 2021.
The new standards will change how the permissible exposure level for respirable crystalline silica is measured. Under those standards, that permissible limit will no longer be calculated using a formula but will instead be a number.
This new way of measuring exposure means that in some circumstances, employers will need to do air monitoring. If there was a past safety assessment, it might be possible for a knowledgeable safety manager to review a past report. However, if there has never been an assessment, employers will be required to have one.
Despite safety standards or because standards were at one time insufficient, a worker might become ill due to exposure to hazardous material at work. The worker might want to apply for workers’ compensation to help cover medical costs and lost income. However, there might be hurdles. A worker might struggle to prove the link between their illness and their workplace, or their employer might try to prevent them from applying for compensation. Workers may want to discuss these challenges with an attorney.