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Danger of silica exposure to workers in Minnesota

Exposure to silica may occur to workers, especially those working in countertop installations with stone. Workers who are involved in industries in which they install stone countertops may need to make certain they are using good safety protection to avoid inhaling the particles.

Crystalline silica particles, the ones that can lead to significant incurable lung disease, are found in sandstone, granite, sand, quartzite and numerous rocks. When workers inhale the tiny particles in even small amounts, they risk the development of silicosis. Symptoms may include shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, fatigue and a chronic cough. Workers are also at an elevated risk of developing kidney disease, lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease from silica exposure.

Employers should take several steps in order to protect their workers from crystalline silica exposure. They should utilize air monitoring devices, use engineering controls and implement safety procedures and provide respiratory protection to their workers. Employers should also provide training to workers regarding safety measures they can take in order to minimize the risk of silica exposure while working on the job.

Workers who are employed in the countertop manufacturing or installation industries would be well advised to take steps to help prevent chronic injuries resulting from toxic exposures. For workers who have contracted illnesses due to workplace exposures, workers' compensation is available to provide benefits. Through workers' compensation, the worker may be able to recover costs for their medical expenses, attendant treatment and rehabilitation costs and any needed medical devices. In the event the exposure leaves the worker either temporarily or permanently unable to work, benefits may also be available to provide a percentage of the worker's monthly income during the disability period. Those who are injured may want to get the help of a workers' compensation attorney in filing their claim and gathering needed medical documentation.

Source: EHS Today, "OSHA and NIOSH: Protect Workers from Silica Exposure during Countertop Installation", sandy Smith, Feb. 19, 2015

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