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Home > News & Case Studies > OSHA Fines and Silica Litigation: A Three-step Preventative Solution from Sy-Klone International

OSHA Fines and Silica Litigation: A Three-step Preventative Solution from Sy-Klone International

Silicosis Thru The Ages

References to silicosis, or something very much like it, can be found in Hippocrates (460-375 B.C.) and Pliny the Elder (23-79 A.D.), who observed that miners would “envelop their faces with loose [animal] bladders, which enable them to see without inhaling the fatal dust.” By the 17th century a connection was made between the disease and stone-cutting; in the 19th century the culprit was identified as silica dust; and by the early 20th century, miners in England and South Africa were receiving disability compensation for the disease.

[ Read more on Politico.com ]

 

On March 25, 2016, OSHA published the long-awaited respirable crystalline silica rule, which the agency says will affect 2 million construction workers and 300,000 workers in general industry operations. Workplace exposure accounts for most health problems tied to silica exposure. Every job that involves chipping, cutting, grinding, or drilling rock poses a danger of inhaling silica dust. Workers are also exposed to silica dust when working with products that contain silica.

This rule took effect on June 23, 2016, after which industries have one to five years to comply:

  • Construction – June 23, 2017 (revised to September 23, 2017), one year after the effective date.
  • General Industry and Maritime – June 23, 2018, two years after the effective date.
  • Hydraulic Fracturing – June 23, 2018, two years after the effective date for all provisions except Engineering Controls, which have a compliance date of June 23, 2021.
      

When you know better, you do better, right?

Employers who fail to put protection into place for their workers will be fined by OSHA and possibly sued by employees. OSHA already appears to be stepping up enforcement and penalty assessments. Penalties for non-compliance have been increased from $7,000 per serious violation to $12,741. Penalties also may be assessed per day for failures to abate and the penalty also may be increased to $124,709 for willful or repeated violations.

Recent examples:

  • OSHA fined an Austin, Texas, area manufacturer $459,918 for a long list of health and safety violations.
  • In May 2016, a citation of $62,370 was leveled against a Wisconsin company that “overexposed three workers to silica.” According to OSHA, “One employee’s exposure was determined to be more than twice the recommended time-weight allowance.”
  • In August 2016, a different Wisconsin company was hit with $56,950 in proposed penalties for overexposing employees to respirable crystalline silica, noise and carbon monoxide, and for failing to implement an appropriate training program.
  • In November 2016, OSHA found workers in Ohio exposed to air contaminants, such as silica, noise and other hazards, for which a penalty of $159,631 was proposed.

[ Click here to see a brief chronology of silica-related regulatory efforts since the early 1990s.]
 

Is this the next asbestos?

In just two days during the month of August 2017, two significant, but unrelated cases were won by the plaintiffs to the tune of a total of $17.6 million because the two workers were not significantly protected on the job from asbestos exposure, even though there were OSHA laws in place. In environments where contaminants are high, the employer is expected to follow OSHA guidelines for protecting the worker against exposure.  If those guidelines are not met, fines and lawsuits could possibly ensue.

And what will you be paying for if the employee wins a lawsuit?
Medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, loss of consortium, travel expenses, home care, punitive and exemplary damages, and the building of a bankruptcy trust. Not only can a lawsuit damage your reputation, it can open the flood gates of litigation and completely bankrupt your company. Nationwide, over 58 companies have put aside more than $30 billion in asbestos trusts to compensate injured workers and their families. These companies have acknowledged their disregard for worker safety and have been forced during bankruptcy proceedings to create asbestos trust funds. If you chose not to comply with the Silica Ruling, then as a company, you too will be an easy target for litigation.

[OSHA offers more answers for your FAQs]
 

The operator enclosure, where your operator spends the most time, is the easiest and most cost-effective environment to control and has the most impact on reducing operator exposure levels to below PELs.

Time is Running Out, but Sy-Klone Has A Solution.

It's simple—Protect your workers from silica to avoid fines and potential lawsuits. The silica rule has very clear requirements and Sy-Klone International is prepared to help you successfully comply. 

Two areas of significant focus should be:

  • Reduce the permissible exposure limit (PEL) for respirable crystalline silica to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air, averaged over an 8-hour shift.
  • Employers must use engineering controls (such as water or ventilation) to limit worker exposure to the PEL; provide respirators when engineering controls cannot adequately limit exposure; limit worker access to high exposure areas; develop a written exposure control plan, offer medical exams to highly exposed workers, and train workers on silica risks and how to limit exposures.

The operator enclosure, where your operator spends the most time, is the easiest and most cost-effective environment to control and has the most impact on reducing operator exposure levels to below PELs. Sy-Klone offers a simple, cost-effective three-step solution with its RESPA® Complete Cab Air Quality System. This system is designed to protect operator health, increase operator comfort and productivity, decrease operational costs, and it is endorsed by the  International Society of Environmental Enclosure Engineers.

Sy-Klone's patented Air Quality products are effective at providing clean air to your HVAC system. These products have been proven in mining, waste, forestry, and agriculture and are available as a first-fit option from many original equipment manufacturers.

To learn more about the Sy-Klone RESPA® Complete Cab Air Quality System and how it can protect your workers from silica exposure and help you comply with the new silica rule, contact us today at 1-800-351-8265 or email sales@sy-klone.com.