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Construction workers' accidents and illnesses are compensable

Respirable crystalline silica threatens the health and safety of approximately 2.3 million members of the workforce nationwide, including some in New York. This number includes 2 million construction workers whose daily activities include drilling, cutting, crushing or grinding of materials like stone and concrete that contain silica. Based on this, it is fair to say that construction workers' accidents are not the only threats these workers face as they are just as likely to develop silicosis, which is a potentially fatal occupational disease.

For this reason, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has announced that enforcement of the final silica rule for the construction industry will commence on Sept. 1. The agency estimates that, once fully realized, the effects of the rule will cause more than 600 lives to be saved. Furthermore, it is expected to prevent at least 900 new silicosis cases per year. The rule aims to curb the prevalence of silicosis, lung cancer, kidney disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease -- all of which are caused by respirable crystalline silica.

Provisions that are enclosed in the final rule include the permissible exposure limit from the current 250 micrograms per cubic meter of air over a shift of eight hours to 50 micrograms. Employers will have to ensure that engineering controls are put in place to limit exposure, and if controls such as ventilation or water are ineffective, respirators must be issued to employees. Presence in high-exposure areas must be limited, and regular medical evaluations must take place for early diagnosis.

Victims of construction workers' accidents in New York -- or those who suffer the effects of an occupational illness such as silicosis -- are entitled to seek financial assistance through the workers' compensation insurance program. The claims process can be intimidating or overwhelming. For that reason, some victims obtain the support and guidance of an attorney who is experienced in this field to navigate the legal and administrative processes for them.

Source: forconstructionpros.com, "Special Report: OSHA Silica Rule: Are You Ready?", Aug. 19, 2017

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