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Railroaders And The Dangers Of Silica Exposure

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) states the following regarding silicosis: “Silicosis is caused by exposure to respirable crystalline silica dust. Crystalline silica is a basic component of soil, sand, granite, and most other types of rock, and it is used as an abrasive blasting agent. Silicosis is progressive, disabling, and often fatal lung disease.” The effects of silicosis are lung cancer, bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), Tuberculosis, Schlereroderma and possible renal disease. Click here.

OSHA has indicated that the laying and repairing of railroad track is potential source of crystalline silica exposure. Read here. In 2001, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) issued a report that indicated that “NIOSH investigators determined that a health hazard existed for railroad track maintenance workers from occupational exposure to crystalline silica.” “The hazard was greatest for workers who operated ballast regulating, broom, and tamping machines and for track repairman who dumped ballast.” “When ballast is moved or disturbed, it generates airborne dust which can be inhaled. This has the potential for causing respiratory disease. The risk for silica dust exposure is greater for employees who work alongside the track as opposed to those situated in the cabs of on-track roadway maintenance machines. A copy of the NIOSH study can be found here.

By Matt Darby

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