The 45-year-old standards that regulate the construction industry’s rules on exposure to silica dust were changed last week. The move has drawn criticism from some construction company owners and managers, while others have applauded the action, saying it more than a few years overdue.

Silica dust, also known as crystalline silica, is a common material that is found in many construction materials. It has consistently been asserted that long-term exposure and inhalation to the dust can cause lung disease and also increase the risks of cancer. It is said that more than 2.3 million people in the United States, including over 2 million construction workers, have been exposed to the substance over the years.

The New Rules

These new regulations will affect about 676,000 workplaces across the country including construction and fracking sites, dental labs, jewelry manufacturers and many more.

According to the Chicago Tribune, the new rules are expected to place the burden on construction companies, who will now have to take extra precautions to protect their employees.

So what does this mean for construction companies? The new rules will require employers to do multiple things:

  • Implement and maintain engineering controls (i.e. water ventilation, etc.) to limit their workers’ exposure to the dust.

  • Provide respirators to construction workers if the engineering controls are not sufficient enough to reduce exposure.

  • Limit work time and access to areas with high traces of silica dust.

The list of rules goes on, and any company that is caught breaking the new rules will face penalties. The construction industry has until June 2017 to comply with the new regulations, which are being put forward by OSHA.

What Employers are Saying

While many are hailing the changes in the regulations, some employers are concerned about the effect that they will have on their businesses. They fear that, because of budget constraints, they will have to divert resources away from safety precautions that protect workers from more common hazards (such as injury due to construction equipment).

What You Can Do to Save Money and Stay Compliant

If you are concerned about making sure that your company abides by all the new regulations, make sure to review OSHA’s report on the new silica dust standards. They will help you to better understand the effects of the recent ruling.

If you are concerned about what this will do to your budget, think about investing in some reliable construction software. Programs like Sage can help you manage your accounts, projects and much more.