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New OSHA rules related to silica exposure

On Feb. 18, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health jointly issued a hazard alert that is designed to protect North Carolina workers exposed to silica during work related to manufactured stone countertops. According to the organizations, individuals involved in processes like manufacturing and installing stone countertops may be at risk for silicosis as a result of exposure to crystalline silica.

Silicosis is an incurable lung disease that can be fatal, and it is usually progressively disabling. Symptoms of the disease may include coughing, shortness of breath and fatigue, and they are not always obviously attributable to silica. The alert comes on the heels of a report that workers in Spain and Israel contracted silicosis due to their work manufacturing stone countertops.

According to NIOSH and OSHA, there are some basic steps that can help prevent workers from developing silicosis and other conditions, such as lung cancer and pulmonary or kidney disease. They include using safe work practices that limit and control workers' exposure to dust, the providing respiratory protection for workers and monitoring silica exposure levels. Proper training and providing information to workers about hazards is also recommended.

If someone has been harmed as a result of their job, whether they were on site or doing something related to their work in another location, they are eligible for workers' compensation. These benefits cover medical expenses and lost wages resulting from people missing work due to the need to recover from an injury. A lawyer may be able to explain what someone can expect during the filing process and what type of benefits they are likely to receive.

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