Over 720 citations were issued to employers in Georgia and across the country by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. These citations were given for violations of respirable crystalline silica standards that occurred between July 2018 and December 2019. The total cost of all of the citations was over $1.5 million.
The most common citation found by OSHA was the failure of employers to assess the risk of exposure. Employers are required to conduct regular exposure assessments. Objective data or air sampling must be used to check for levels of employee exposure to silica. Inspectors ask employers for air samples or the data from the objective testing used to check for employee exposure. If this cannot be produced, OSHA will cite the employer for the violation.
Not having a written exposure plan was the next most common violation found by OSHA inspectors. Employers often rely on general exposure plans that don’t take into account the unique needs of their employees or business. Another common violation found by inspectors was exposure to respirable silica that was in excess given standards. Employers must lower these levels to provide a safe work environment for their employees, or employees might be entitled to treatment under workers’ compensation.
Crystalline silica is found in granite, dirt, sand and other minerals commonly used in the construction industry. When employees grind, drill or cut these minerals, the crystalline silica becomes small enough to be breathed into the lungs. Inhaling crystalline silica may lead to COPD, lung cancer or tuberculosis. Employers have the responsibility to ensure that the worksite is safe for their employees and that air levels comply with those issued by OSHA. When they don’t, an employee might become ill. Filing a workers’ compensation claim may be able to help with medical bills and lost wages during the healing period.