Recognizing the too-lax standards to which the U.S. is holding industry with regard to crystalline silica, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety & Health Administration recently announced a proposed rule that it hopes will curb workplace exposure.
Our Boston Social Security Disability Insurance lawyers applaud this yet-to-be-finalized rule, as exposure to this material puts workers’ health in jeopardy. Many lose not just their ability to continue working, but also to breathe effectively.
The fibers of this naturally-occurring substance, found in dirt, quartz, clays, granite, sand and other stones, are released into the air by processes that include grinding, cutting or drilling of rocks or products that contain silica. Workers who might find themselves routinely engaged in this type of work include those involved in construction (particularly masonry, jack hammering and sandblasting), agriculture, shipbuilding, stonecutting, mining, track-laying railroad workers, manufacturing and furnace repair.
When humans breathe in these fibers, they are at risk for developing silicosis, a debilitating and sometimes fatal disease of the lungs. It’s also possible that a person might develop other forms of lung cancer, as well as chronic bronchitis, tuberculosis and even kidney diseases.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health estimates that some 1.7 million workers are exposed to silica in the workplace every year in the U.S.
Workers who have been diagnosed with silicosis may be eligible for disability payments through SSDI, but a diagnosis alone does not guarantee approval. What you will likely have to prove is that your lung capacity has significantly diminished. Many people with silicosis qualify for SSDI by applying the standards as laid forth in the SSDI blue book listing Section 3.02 chronic pulmonary insufficiency. This section essentially breaks down how much air you’re breathing, relative to your height and weight.
Our attorneys are experienced in helping individuals make a strong case for silica-caused disability.
OSHA estimates that its new proposed rule will save some 700 lives annually and would prevent some 1,600 yearly cases of silicosis. As it now stands, OSHA rules for silica exposure limits were set 40 years ago, when the full scope of exposure risk was not realized.
Based on extensive review of updated technical and scientific evidence, the agency is recommending that workers now be limited to a new permissible exposure limit of 50 micrograms of respirable crystalline silica per cubic meter of air in an average 8-hour day. The rule also encompasses provisions for how employers will go about measuring that exposure and how they could mitigate some of those risks through more intensive training and the proper use of certain protective gear.
Other measures of protection would include formalized adoption of practices such as thoroughly wetting the material before cutting, which reduces the risk of it going airborne. Many employers do this already, but making it a rule would result in enhanced protections.
If you have been diagnosed with a silica-related disease, contact our offices to learn more about whether you be eligible to seek SSDI. Alternatively, you may decide to pursue a Boston workers’ compensation claim, and our offices can help you in that regard as well.
If you are considering filing for SSDI in Boston, call for a free and confidential appointment at (617) 777-7777.
US Department of Labor’s OSHA announces proposed rule to protect workers exposed to crystalline silica, Aug. 23, 2013, Press Release, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety & Health Administration
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Report: Top Disabling Workplace Injuries Detailed, Sept. 14, 2013, Boston Social Security Disability Lawyer Blog