California construction sites can be steeped with many readily recognizable hazards. Heavy machinery, scaffoldings and piles of debris all hold a host of potential dangers. Yet of equal concern should be those threats that are not so easily visible.
Tiny poisonous dust particles floating through the air can cause serious long-term physical harm. Exposed workers in environments containing these sorts of elements need only breathe to get hazardous materials coursing through their lungs.
Currently the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is addressing the dangers inherent in breathing particles of a substance known as silica. Internal exposure to silica can lead to a condition called silicosis. The symptoms of silicosis can range from breathing issues and strong hacking coughs, all the way to severe respiratory problems and even death.
A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report from 2011 contends that silicosis caused by silica exposure was responsible for approximately 162 deaths per year during the researched period of the years 2000 to 2005. In addition that time period saw an estimated 1,975 new cases of silicosis per year.
Silica can be found in such common sources as soil, concrete and rock. Toxic silica particles can be easily released into the air when workers manipulate these sources in ways such as drilling and sawing. Those working in construction and hydrofracking environments are especially vulnerable to exposure.
OSHA is planning to eventually create regulation standards that will limit worker exposure to silica. In the meantime, employers need to recognize the potentially grave threat that may be filling the air of their work sites. Employees need to be aware of the possible dangers and do what they can to minimize their risks.
Toxic exposure of any kind must be taken seriously. If you ever come in contact with toxins while at work, seek medical attention immediately, then contact legal representation. Any symptoms you develop could require treatment. A workers’ compensation attorney who knows the terrain of California labor and environmental safety laws may help get you the funds required to see to your well-being.
Source: The Buffalo News, “Another Voice: Pending new rules on silica exposure will save lives,” Gregory A. Stoner, April 28, 2014