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Silica protections for workers to increase

Serious lung diseases can affect South Carolina workers who are exposed to excessive levels of silica dust. However, it has been more than 40 years since safety standards related to this hazard have been increased. Changes are set to be implemented by the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration in the coming months as maximum exposure levels for workers in the construction and marine sectors will be reduced.

Statistics indicate that almost 2 million workers face silica risks, especially those involved in professions such as blasting, stone cutting, and foundry work. Although an awareness of silica-related disease has existed for a long time, the connection between cancer and silica exposure is more recent. The material has been considered a lung carcinogen for approximately 18 years. A worker who inhales silica dust can be at risk for lung cancer or silicosis, a disease that cannot be cured. The dust can result in the scarring of lung tissues, and it can affect the processing of oxygen in the lungs.

While OSHA is working to implement a more stringent standard, there has been opposition from industry groups. A rider to stop any spending on implementation of this standard was introduced in connection with an omnibus spending bill for funding the 2016 activities of the federal government. However, the rider in question was dropped, which will hopefully pave the way for the standards to be changed as planned. Several other riders related to environmental issues were still in play as the bill faced its vote.

Workers' compensation benefits benefits may be available for silicosis victims. However, legal challenges can become an issue if there is a significant lapse between an individual's exposure to a disease-causing substance and the manifestation of symptoms. A lawyer may be helpful in such a situation through obtaining the relevant medical evidence.

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Smith & Griffith, LLP
1102 North Main Street
Anderson, SC 29621

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