Since September 23, 2017, OSHA has been enforcing the revised exposure limits for respirable crystalline silica. On an annual basis, it is estimated the new limits will impact 2 million construction workers across 600,000 workplaces and save more than 600 lives and $7.7 Billion in associated costs.
The regulation has some bite too: the new regulations allow for up to $12,471 per violation, up from $7,000. And if the violation is deemed to be willful or repeated, the fine can be $124,709 per violation (up from $70,000).
But why all the fuss? It’s just dust, right?
Since crystalline silica is a component of soil, sand, granite and other minerals, it is a common component of building materials such as concrete, bricks and tile. The danger is when silica – a classified human lung carcinogen – becomes airborne and inhaled, which can ultimately cause tuberculosis and/or silicosis. To help put the risk into perspective, one source estimated the dust from cutting a common 60 mm walkway paver with a standard dry-cut circular saw releases approximately 29 years worth of silica when compared to the new permissible exposure limit.
From an insurance perspective, a first or third party claim could arise from exposure to silica. Worker’s compensation will respond to damages incurred by the construction worker. Based upon the jurisdiction, a third-party over action claim could arise and would thereby be addressed by the Contractors Pollution Liability (CPL) if the insured purchases such coverage. But what about the 3rd party claim – says the person working adjacent to the construction site?
While multiple insurance lines may be triggered, the claim is likely going to be covered by the General Liability (GL), the CPL or a combination of both. But be aware as the GL likely includes a total pollution exclusion. As such, we highly recommend contractors purchase a CPL program, which includes coverage for bodily injury resulting from a contractor’s jobsite operations.
And while the common CPL policy does not include a silica exclusion, it’s not a bad idea to review in light of the recent OSHA updates.