Construction workers risk being seriously injured and dying on the job daily. One danger is exposure to crystalline silica, which can cause serious and sometimes fatal lung diseases. Employees in many construction jobs, such as road construction, tile installation, sandblasting, brick masonry, and rock drilling, could inhale tiny particles of crystalline silica on a regular basis. Common ways that workers are exposed to this dangerous substance include:
- When rock is chipped, hammered, and drilled.
- When rock is crushed, loaded, hauled, and dumped.
- When abrasive blasting is done using silica sand as an abrasive.
- When abrasive blasting of concrete is done.
- When concrete or masonry is sawed, hammered, drilled, chipped, or grinded.
- When concrete or masonry structures are demolished.
- When concrete, rock, or sand dust is dry swept or blown away using compressed air.
Ten Ways Employers Can Limit Construction Workers’ Exposure to Silica
While employers may not be able to avoid exposing their workers to silica in construction jobs, they can implement safety measures to limit the risk of workers suffering serious illnesses. Here are 10 steps your employer should be taking to limit your exposure:
- Recognize when crystalline silica will be produced and make a plan to control or eliminate the dust.
- Avoid using silica sand and other substances containing more than one percent crystalline silica as abrasive blasting material.
- Use containment methods, such as blast-cleaning machines and cabinets, wet drilling, and wet sawing of silica-containing materials, to control the dust and limit employee exposure.
- Provide disposable or washable protective clothing for workers.
- Have workers shower and change into clean clothes when leaving the contaminated work site to prevent spreading crystalline silica at other work areas, in their vehicles, and at their homes.
- Conduct air monitoring to measure worker exposure.
- Use approved respiratory protection when workers will be exposed to higher levels of this substance.
- Provide periodic medical examinations for workers exposed to crystalline silica.
- Post warning signs to mark boundaries of work sites contaminated with crystalline silica.
- Provide workers with training on the health risks of crystalline silica, work safety practices, and the use of protective respiratory equipment.
Workers may not even realize they are being injured because silicosis can take years to develop. However, silicosis is a potentially deadly disease that can develop when the lungs are inflamed and scarred and causes shortness of breath, severe coughing, chest pains, weakness and fatigue, and respiratory failure. Sadly, this disease is not curable and could be prevented if employers implemented these safety measures to keep their workers safe.
If you or a family member are a construction worker and suffered an injury caused by your employer, start an online chat or call us at (817) 380-4888 to learn about your legal options and how we can help you.