Silicosis is an irreversible, disabling respiratory condition caused by inhaling silica dust and it can be fatal. Crystalline silica is a hazardous mineral that can be found in sand, soil, concrete, granite, brick, and rocks. Silica dust is usually created through cutting, grinding or drilling these materials.
Workers who are at risk for silicosis include those working in construction, mining, agriculture, and manufacturing. Given the seriousness of this condition, they should always wear respiratory protective gear when disturbing materials containing silica.
Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of discussion about the danger associated with silica. Workers in Ohio and across the country breathe in these microscopic parties and they don’t always know they could be at risk for silicosis. Sometimes, they only become aware when they develop symptoms and go to the doctor.
Like other workers who develop occupational diseases, individuals who are diagnosed with silicosis may be able to get workers’ comp benefits. However, it can be difficult to navigate the claims process alone. Silicosis doesn’t have a clear onset date like an accidental injury does and it can be hard to prove it’s work-related. That’s why ill workers usually need help from an experienced Cleveland workers’ compensation lawyer.
Attorneys are there to ensure that you get the full amount of compensation you are due. For such a serious illness, you’ll likely be eligible for more than just benefits to cover medical expenses and lost wages.
Types of Silicosis
Silicosis generally falls into one of three categories. The most common type of the disease is simple chronic silicosis. It results from exposure to small amounts of silica over a long period, usually more than 20 years. People with simple chronic silicosis often experience breathing difficulties.
Meanwhile, accelerated silicosis occurs following exposure to larger amounts of silica over 5 to 15 years. Symptoms of this form of silicosis appear more quickly and they tend to be more severe than those associated with simple chronic silicosis.
The third form of silicosis is acute silicosis. This can be caused by short-term exposure to high levels of silica dust. The onset of symptoms can be sudden, and they may include swelling and fluid accumulation in the lungs resulting in low blood oxygen levels and severe breathing difficulties.
Generally, symptoms of silicosis include:
- Shortness of breath
- Severe coughing
- Loss of appetite
Since silicosis is a progressive disease, you may not notice symptoms until the condition becomes life-threatening. That’s why it’s so important for employers to notify workers about the dangers of exposure to silica dust and provide adequate personal protective equipment.
Responsibilities of Employers Under the Law
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has published a Respirable Crystalline Silica Standard for Construction. It requires that employers take steps to limit exposure to the substance. Once an employer knows or has to reason to know that the level of silica is above a specific level, they must inform workers about the risks.
Employers are required to work with professionals to determine how much silica is present on a site. They must then take steps to protect workers and provide respirators if necessary. OSHA is clear about all the things employers in the construction industry must do. They are required to:
- Have a written plan that includes procedures to protect workers and restrict access in areas with high silica levels
- Task a competent individual with implementing the plan
- Limit practices that expose workers to silica
- Provide complete medical exams every three years for specified workers
- Educate workers on the dangers of exposure and how to reduce that exposure
- Keep accounts of exposure and medical tests
Contact A Cleveland Workers’ Comp Attorney for Help with Your Claim
If you have developed silicosis, lung cancer, or any other type of illness because of exposure to silica dust, you may be entitled to compensation. You’ll need to act quickly to ensure you file a timely claim and do everything possible to ensure you get the benefits you deserve. You won’t be able to continue working in your current role and you may even be too ill to work again.
The only way to protect your future and that of your family is to file a solid claim with strong supporting evidence. At the earliest opportunity, you need to contact a workers’ compensation attorney in Cleveland and get advice on how to proceed. We’ll investigate and apply our knowledge and experience to the case. Book your consultation today.