It is likely that readers in Pennsylvania have heard about workers in the
fracking industry getting a disease called silicosis. This is a disease
caused by breathing in too much silica dust. Workers in the construction
and manufacturing industries also suffer from this disease but it is most
prevalent in the fracking industry. This is because sand is one of the
most important ingredients in fracking fluid.
With the immediate onset of silicosis comes coughing and difficulty breathing.
However, this disease can also lead to much more serious diseases such
as tuberculosis, lung cancer, kidney and autoimmune disease. As readers
are likely aware, previous postings in this blog have discussed that when
workers are subjected to these kinds of dangers in the workplace and it
results in a disease, they could be entitled toworkers' compensation. However, OSHA is now considering passing new regulations that would make
the onset and occurrence of this disease much less common to begin with.
The new rules were released by OSHA last week. The rules would limit the
permissible level of exposure to silica in half and require that employers
provide employees with better training and education on the dangers of
working with silica. In addition, employers would now be required to offer
their employees medical exams to monitor their exposure.
Labor unions have pushed OSHA to update its standards, which have not been
updated since 1971. So these new regulations, if passed would make some
very happy. However, they have not gone without seeing opposition from
other parties. Some of the leaders in the industry claim that the silicosis
deaths are already decreasing meaning there are already less injured workers
and the current federal standards are working. They are worried that stricter
regulations not only are not necessary but that they could also hurt business.
The rules are not yet finalized and those in the industry are not yet obligated
to follow them. But it is important that they join the conversation now
so that they understand the impact of the rules if they are passed. From
OSHA's perspective, it is believed the new rules would save 700 lives
and prevent 1,600 cases of silicosis every year.
Source: State Impact, "How Could OSHA's New Silica Rules Impact The Natural Gas Industry," Katie Colaneri, Aug. 29, 2013