The West Virginia University Safety and Health Extension is hosting the Silica Summit on Friday, Sept. 2 at the WVU Erickson Alumni Center. The event highlights and focuses on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s final rule to protect workers from being exposed to breathable crystalline silica.

Key industry professionals in the region are encouraged to attend and learn from panel discussions and hands-on respiration protection training that applies to new standards in both general industry and construction.

Attendees will learn about the final rule itself, current research centered on silica exposure and control methods and solutions that meet the new standards. The event counts for 0.7 continuing education units.

Registration and more information is available at

About 2.3 million workers are exposed to silica dust in their workplace. Construction workers who drill, cut, crush or grind materials such as concrete and stone make up the majority of those exposed.

Roughly 300,000 workers are exposed in general industry, including those who work around hydraulic fracturing operations.

The purpose of OSHA’s final rule is to protect workers from breathing silica dust, which has been linked to lung cancer, silicosis, pulmonary disease and kidney disease. By their estimates, the rule will save more than 600 lives and prevent 900 new cases of silicosis annually.

Organizers feel that West Virginia is the ideal location to hold this event because of past industrial disasters and current industry in the state.

The Hawk’s Nest Tunnel disaster that took place near Gauley Bridge was the largest single occupational disaster in United States history, with hundreds of workers losing their lives due to silicosis. Currently, West Virginia is at the epicenter of oil and gas drilling which utilizes hydraulic fracturing that exposes workers to high levels of respirable crystalline silica.

“Exposure to excessive silica dust has been a chronic issue for workers since the 1930s, and this is a critical opportunity for industry professionals to learn about how these new rules and regulations protect their employees from a variety of serious health problems in the now,” said Tiffany Rice, WVU Safety and Health Extension specialist. “We’ve assembled a comprehensive panel of presenters that will help attendees understand the significance of these regulations from all angles.”

Representatives from the OSHA Office of Standards and Guidance, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the Center to Protect Workers’ Rights and Michael McCawley from the WVU School of Public Health will be on hand to lead discussions.

The West Virginia University Safety and Health Extension provides safety and health training, technical assistance and applied research for employers and employees alike to ensure workers are educated about and protected from occupational hazards.

WVU Extension Service’s programs are accomplished in partnership with individuals, families, businesses, civic groups and governmental organizations statewide and throughout the nation.

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CONTACT: Zane Lacko, WVU Extension Service

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