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A silica exposure crackdown 40 years in the making

Many Minnesota families suffer because of silica exposure. Silica is a mineral substance that occurs in dust released during mining and fracking, and even construction. While it has been estimated that tighter regulations controlling silica exposure in the workplace could save nearly 700 lives and more than 1,600 illnesses annually, OSHA (the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration) has been incredibly slow to take action.

If you or someone you love is a miner or industrial worker suffering from pulmonary disease or lung cancer, you may already know that breathing silica dust on the job causes these illnesses. Study after study says so. Why aren't our workers here in Minnesota better protected?

The long journey to silica regulation

OSHA first announced that it planned to issue a tougher silica rule in 1974. But more than 40 years have gone by, and this has not happened, with budget shortages and process problems taking most of the blame. OSHA's current leader says the agency will crack down on silica exposure by January 2016.

Since the 1970s, construction sites, shipyards and other industries have been asked to limit silica dust to certain levels. However, studies show that the limits aren't low enough to keep workers safe from developing serious illnesses. A plan to cut these numbers in half has been in the works for decades.

Not everyone is in favor of OSHA's plan to reduce allowable silica limits on jobsites. Opponents say the change would cost businesses billions of dollars and thousands of jobs. They argue that the current standards are strict enough, and the problem is simply that businesses need help complying with them.

What do you think? Should OSHA limit silica levels? If so, do you feel confident that the agency can accomplish this?

Regardless of where you stand, if you or a loved one is suffering from silicosis, lung cancer, or any other occupational illness, make sure you understand your rights. Talk to a respected workers' compensation attorney about how you can get compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages and more. Many reputable attorneys will not charge you a fee to review your case and discuss your options.

Source: Bloomberg Business, "OSHA Is Still Working On Silica," Josh Eidelson, Sept. 3, 2015

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