In 122 days, 7 hours, and 45 minutes, the world will have the privilege of watching the ocean’s deadliest predators bite, thrash, and chomp their way to fame on Discovery’s Shark Week. For some, that week represents an event even bigger than the Super Bowl, and for others it’s a week that makes you think twice (at least) about even putting your pinky toe in the ocean, let alone going swimming. According to the University of Florida’s International Shark Attack File, the chances of being attacked by a shark are just one in 11.5 million (you’re more likely to be killed by lightning). Most people are afraid of things that, in their mind, have the greatest potential to end their existence. They fear spiders, snakes, heights, dogs, and lightning, but very few people are afraid of the air that they breathe.
That may sound like an odd fear to have but for those construction workers who use equipment that releases minute, sand-like particles into the air called “silica,” it speaks to an ever-present threat. In a statement on their website, OSHA states that, “Exposure to silica can be deadly, and limiting that exposure is essential. Every year, many exposed workers not only lose their ability to work, but also to breathe.” The proposed legislation expects to, “prevent thousands of deaths from silicosis – an incurable and progressive disease – as well as lung cancer, other respiratory diseases and kidney disease.”
While the proposal sounds feasible in theory, it may have a difficult time in the real world. The Construction Industry Safety Coalition (CISC) testified that the new legislation lacked pragmatism, as construction sites encounter conditions (such as rain, wind and cold) that would make it impossible to enforce OSHA’s new silica rule. Instead of protecting workers, the proposal could dramatically increase costs that would leave construction firms with less money for workers and projects, resulting in layoffs and fewer job opportunities.
The CISC and OSHA will continue to debate over the positives and negatives of the regulation of airborne silica, but in the meantime, here are a few steps your business can take to protect yourself and your workers. Stay safe!