Figures from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration reveal that an average of14 construction workers around the country lost their lives in workplaces accidents each day in 2016, and many more became sick after being exposed to toxic substances while on the job. One of the most common hazards faced by Kentucky construction workers is fine dust known as crystalline silica, which has been linked to several deadly conditions including lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and kidney failure.
OSHA introduced revised crystalline silica standards in 2013, and the workplace safety watchdog announced in January that employers could be fined as much as $129,336 for repeatedly violating the rule. Single violation fines were increased to $12,934, and employers can also be ordered to pay that amount every day until necessary changes are made. According to OSHA, as many as 2.3 million Americans are exposed to silica while at work.
The problem is especially severe in the construction sector because large amounts of silica are produced when concrete is drilled, sanded or cut. OSHA guidelines call for concrete to be wet cut whenever possible to reduce the risks and respiratory masks to be issued to workers when water cannot be used. The agency also urges employers to stress the dangers of silica exposure during safety training as it can take years before the dust accumulates to the point where health is affected.
When employers routinely flout safety regulations and fail to adequately train or equip their workers, attorneys may suggest that those injured while on the job pursue personal injury lawsuits rather than filing workers’ compensation claims. While workers’ compensation programs were put into place in part to shield employers from such litigation, lawsuits may be filed when the recklessness is so severe that it amounts to malicious intent and accidents, injuries or illnesses become inevitable.