The US Department of Labor has issued a long-awaited update to rules governing exposure to silica dust, which scars the lungs and can cause diseases such as silicosis and cancer.
Image courtesy of Keith Srakocic/AP.
The permissible exposure limit (PEL) for respirable crystalline silica is reduced to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air, averaged over an 8-hour shift. The rule further requires employers to user engineering controls (such as ventilation) to limit worker exposure to the PEL.
OSHA estimates that once fully implemented, the new rule will save about 600 lives per year.
Employers will have 1-5 years to comply with the new standard, depending on the industry.