OSHA’s new silica standard for construction went into effect on Sept. 23.

Contractors who engage in activities that create silica dust (respirable crystalline silica) such as by cutting, grinding or blasting materials like concrete, stone and brick, must meet a stricter standard for how much of that dust workers inhale. The same goes for subcontractors or employers of tradespeople working around these exposures.

The new standard also specifies what services employers must make available to workers who are exposed to high levels of silica dust and the training required of those who are at risk.

What does silica cause? Breathing silica dust can lead to silicosis, an incurable lung disease that can be fatal if severe enough. Those with too much silica exposure can also develop lung cancerkidney disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Those who do not comply with the new standard will be subject to a maximum fine of $12,675 for a serious or other-than-serious violation; $12,675 per day past the abatement date for a failure-to-abate violation; and $126,749 for a repeated or willful violation.

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