Building contractors in New Jersey have an obligation to measure their workers’ exposure to silica and adopt methods that protect them from breathing harmful dust. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration updated regulations about silica dust in March 2016 by reducing acceptable exposure limits by 80 percent. Since September 2017, the new safety standards have been in effect. OSHA inspectors have not issued many citations yet as industry players seek clarification and guidance from the agency when they need to apply the rules to specific situations.
As of April 2017, federal regulators had issued 116 citations involving silica violations. More citations might become public in the future because the agency sometimes takes as long as six months to complete formal citations.
Silica dust represents a hazard to construction workers because inhaling it can scar the lungs. A serious condition called silicosis could arise, which makes breathing difficult and sometimes leads to death. OSHA regulations require contractors to employ safety measures like wearing respirators, using vacuums to contain dust before it drifts and applying streams of water to saws or drills to prevent dust from entering the air. Contractors often need to make sure that their subcontractors are observing the new silica regulation as well.
A construction worker who is injured on the job should have access to workers’ compensation benefits that can pay for lost wages and medical care. A worker concerned about issues like workplace safety or retaliation for reporting an injury could consult an attorney. Legal counsel might tell a client about available coverage or connect the person with an independent medical exam.