The Department of Labor is issuing a long-awaited and controversial rule Thursday aimed at better protecting workers from inhaling silica dust.

The new rule dramatically reduces the allowed exposure limits for workers in a slew of industries, from construction to manufacturing to fracking.


A small company in Ithaca, led by a 19-year-old entrepreneur, has a robot they say can clean floors and will make beds. The robot is still in prototype stage, but the team behind Maidbot is hoping to bring the “Rosie” from The Jetsons-type machine onto the market within the next year.


Business owner, Richard Deys, and his roughly 20-person staff are breathing easier these days.

Deys is the founder and co-owner of Sandman’s Sandblasting and Coatings. The Manchester, New York company specializes in blasting, spray coating, and fabrication. Blasting is a general term used to describe the act of propelling very fine bits of material at a high speed to clean or etch a surface.

And it’s dirty work. Sand used to be the most commonly used material, but since that causes the incurable lung disease silicosis, blasters like the Sandman’s team are now using other materials in its place.

(Video after the jump.)


Over 2 million American workers are exposed to silica dust in industries like construction, mining, road repair and sand blasting. WXXI’s Michelle Faust reports the Occupational Safety and Health Administration - OSHA - is now pushing for tougher limits on how much silica dust they can be exposed to in the workplace.

But the proposed rules will come too late for many workers who’ve already contracted silicosis, a potentially fatal lung disease. 

Michelle Faust/WXXI News

Three seniors in the nursing program at the College at Brockport follow Professor Jennifer Chesebro through a long nondescript room with eight occupied hospital beds along the walls.