OSHA held a public event on March 24 at the International Masonry Institute in Bowie, Md., to announce a final rule to protect workers by reducing their exposure to respirable silica dust. The rule will curb lung cancer, silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and kidney disease in America's workers.
The event was attended by more than 200 people, including several victims of silica-related diseases. Speakers included U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez, OSHA Assistant Secretary Dr. David Michaels and Tom Ward, whose father died of silicosis. Later, attendees were able to watch apprentice bricklayers demonstrate cutting and drilling equipment that uses water to keep dust from getting into the air or a ventilation system to remove it from the air.
The final rule contains two standards, one for construction and one for general industry and maritime. Both standards reduce the permissible exposure limit for crystalline silica and include employer requirements to protect workers, such as by limiting worker exposure through work practices and engineering controls; training workers; limiting their access to high exposure areas and providing medical exams to highly exposed workers.