The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health announced revised requirements for the medical surveillance of workers who risk exposure to silica particles. The new requirements will become effective on June 23, and they will not apply to the construction industry, which has separate silica requirements. A significant number of workers’ compensation claims follow silica-related claims each year, and over two million workers nationwide work in conditions in which that expose them to silica dust.
The respirable crystalline silica regulations will apply to mining, foundries, rock crushing, abrasive blasting, cement product manufacturing and cultured stone processing. Silica is a mineral present in soil as well as manufactured products with some level of soil content. These include granite, such as countertops and other concrete products. The silica particles in dust are fine enough to be breathed into the lungs, causing severe health problems, including silicosis and cancer.
The particles that workers inhale are called respirable crystalline silica, and they penetrate deep into the lungs of exposed workers. The new Cal/OSHA requirements include medical reviews focused on respiratory exposure, including chest X-rays, tuberculosis tests, pulmonary function tests and more. After initial testing of all workers exposed to silica dust for 30 days or more per year, review tests must be carried out at least every three years, or more often if required by the physician.
California workers who contract occupational diseases such as silicosis will be eligible for benefits through the state-regulated workers’ compensation insurance system. It is crucial to keep the initial and follow-up medical reports elated to silica dust exposure because this is a progressive illness without a specific start date. Such a claim could be complicated, but it could be simplified by the support and guidance of an experienced workers’ compensation attorney.