Construction workers in Florida may be exposed to particularly high levels of silica dust when chipping and crushing concrete and other materials. In some cases, the level of exposure could rise to over 10 times the permitted amount according to federal OSHA workplace safety regulations, one study indicates. Researchers collected samples from the breathing zones of 51 workers at demolition, bridge repair and crushing job sites in the construction industry. They also collected 33 samples from nearby areas to measure the distribution of silica dust particles in the surrounding environment.
Some of these samples were taken from job sites with dust suppression controls in place while others were not. The results indicated that workers chipping concrete during bridge repair, especially to substructures, faced the highest level of exposure to respirable crystalline silica. They faced an average exposure of 527 micrograms per cubic meter of air, over 10 times the limit of 50 micrograms per cubic meter under workplace safety regulations. Other workers also faced dangerous silica exposure levels, such as those operating crushing machines. On the other hand, laborers and operating engineers at these sites typically had exposure levels of only 17 micrograms per cubic meter.
Silica dust exposure is a major concern because crystalline silica is known to cause cancer. The substance is found in sand, stone and artificial stone, all important to construction. In addition, inhaling silica dust can lead to the development of silicosis, a chronic respiratory disease caused by lung scarring from silica particles. Silicosis can lead to serious breathing difficulties.
Construction workers face a number of hazards on the job, many of which can lead to serious injury or disease, especially when workplace safety standards are violated. People injured on the job might consult with a workers' compensation lawyer about pursuing compensation for their medical bills and other costs.