An Overview of Temporary California Workplace Safety Standard to Protect Workers from Silicosis

On December 29, 2023, new temporary workplace standards from the California Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) officially took effect. These regulations are designed to protect employees in the stone fabrication industry from silicosis. In this post, our Fresno workers’ compensation attorney offers an overview of California’s temporary workplace safety regulations to protect workers from silicosis.

Background: What is Silicosis?

Silicosis is a chronic lung disease caused by inhaling silica dust. It is commonly found in mining, quarrying, and construction industries. The dust scars lung tissue and, unfortunately, can lead to progressive and incurable respiratory issues. Symptoms include coughing, breathlessness, and fatigue, worsening over time. Silicosis increases the risk of other lung diseases and lung cancer.

Serious Health and Safety Concerns Raised in Stone Fabrication Industry

In 2023, serious public health and safety concerns were raised in California’s stone fabrication. The core of the issue was the threat posed by worker exposure to silica dust. Specifically, respirable crystalline silica—which is a major component in the fabrication of artificial stone countertops and other similar stone products. The initiative was driven by alarming statistics from the California Department of Public Health (DPH), which found 95 cases of silicosis among these workers since 2019 alone. Tragically, there were 10 deaths. The worst part, of course, is that silicosis among stone fabrication workers is largely considered to be a preventable occupational disease. It can be prevented when the proper safety precautions are taken.

Emergency Regulations: Employers Must Do the Following to Protect Workers

As noted at the beginning of the article, Cal/OSHA has now put temporary emergency workplace safety regulations in place to help protect vulnerable workers from the risk of silicosis. The regulations could—and more likely than not will—become permanent at a later date. Here is an overview of some of the key things that employers in these industries must to do protect workers:

  • Employers must implement stringent protective measures—such as using wet methods—for cutting and grinding;
  • Employers must ensure the proper handling of waste materials;
  • Employers must proactively monitor air quality to keep silica levels below the proper level; and
  • Employers must provide vulnerable workers with full-face coverings and powered air-purifying respirators.

Beyond these workplace safety requirements, Cal/OSHA now mandates regular training for workers on the risks associated with silica exposure, symptom recognition, and encouraging the reporting of any symptoms without fear of retaliation. Finally, employers in California are also required to report cases of silicosis or lung cancer to both Cal/OSHA and the California DPH.

Get Help From an Occupational Disease Lawyer in Fresno, California

Joseph C. Yrulegui is a reliable workerscompensation lawyer. If you or your loved one developed silicosis related to your job, Attorney Yrulegui is prepared to assist you in navigating the claims process. Give us a call now or contact us online to arrange your fully private initial appointment. We handle occupational disease claims in Fresno, Fresno County, and throughout the area.