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3 new OSHA rules for 2014 that may reduce workplace injuries

The safety of workers in California and around the country is an issue that is always evolving. Each year, OSHA develops new rules designed to reduce workplace injuries. Several new rules are in the works for 2014 to deal with workplace hazards, and three of those proposed rules involve combustible dust, exposure to silica and confined spaces in the construction industry.

Industries that process materials ranging from wood to sugars and grains produce dust that, left unchecked, could pile up over time. That dust could then ignite or even explode. After a 2006 study identified numerous serious injuries and deaths from combustible dust, OSHA began developing a rule regarding the substance in Oct. 2009.

Worker exposure to silica has always been a concern for OSHA, but with the increase in fracking -- a process used in shales to stimulate the production of oil and natural gas -- the rules regarding silica need updating and modification. Silica sand used in fracking can become airborne and be inhaled by workers. This is not the only industry that will be affected by this new rule, but it is the one that appears to be of most concern.

OSHA is developing a rule to increase communication regarding the hazards of working in confined spaces faced by construction workers. Multiple companies tend to work on one construction project, and OSHA believes worker injuries can be reduced by centralizing communication regarding safety procedures for confined spaces. OSHA intends to require the lead contractor to ensure that everyone involved in the project follows safety measures.

The implementation of new rules by OSHA could take some time. Even though they may not eliminate workplace injuries, it is hoped they will at least reduce them. When workers suffer injuries on-the-job, they are entitled to certain benefits under California's workers' compensation system. A working knowledge of that system could ensure that workers receive all benefits available to them to help defray the financial costs of recovery.

Source: ehstoday.com, OSHA Rules to Plan for in 2014, Ron Severson and Amy Boas, Dec. 6, 2013

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