New rules about harmful silica dust could have a profound impact on the work place safety efforts of many industrial operations across North America.
Workplace safety is of the utmost importance, especially in industrial settings where heavy machinery is present and potentially harmful materials in use. With the economy expanding since the economic recession of the late 2000s, these issues are becoming increasingly pressing.
For instance, many manufacturing jobs have been returning to North American shores, bringing with them more complex skill sets for employees. Moreover, industries such as oil and gas drilling have seen a resurgence both in Canada and the U.S. But again, this increased ergonomic activity creates some potential safety hazards, if not properly addressed.
Silica a growing concern
NBC reported that one of these growing health and safety concerns is silica dust. The dust is a product of operations in the mining, fracking, brickwork, floor work and other field, and when inhaled can cause major damage to one's respiratory system. In fact, workers who breath in silica dust have double the normal risk of developing lung cancer.
However, despite these pressing health concerns, these risks have largely gone ignored for quite sometime. The news source noted that rules government silica have remained unchanged since the 1970s.
New OSHA rules
Concerns about the increased levels of silica in these various industries continue to build, prompting the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to draft new rules governing the levels of the dust in the work place. Lexology reported that the government body proposed a rule last year that would impose exposure limits on the particles, which has since been subjected to a public comment period. Now that this comment period has concluded, OSHA is expected to administer a ruling on it shortly.
The NBC report noted that the reason silica dust has gone relatively overlooked within the industry is because it can be easy to not notice it. However, with mining operations picking up, along with an increase in oil and gas drilling, these issues will continue to come to the forefront of people's minds. Shale oil drilling for instance is becoming increasingly common both in Canada and the U.S., playing an integral role in securing energy supplies. This means that if these industries are going to continue to thrive, they are going to need employees who are fit for the job.
Equipping workers with the proper tools and making sure work environments are safe will be vital in the coming years to make sure these issues are addressed.