One of the lesser-known types of work-related exposure injuries is a debilitating lung condition called silicosis. The disorder is caused by a worker’s inhaling crystalline silica particles even in small amounts.
Workers who are employed in the manufacture and installation of stone countertops are especially at risk, as the silica particles are released from sandstone, granite, sand and other stones used in their manufacture. A worker who inhales the particles may develop lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and kidney disease in addition to silicosis. Silicosis itself is characterized by chronic shortness of breath, fatigue and other respiratory issues associated with the progressive and sometimes fatal illness.
Because of the risks, those who work with stone should be provided with respiratory equipment to help prevent the development of silicosis. It is important for workers to always make certain they they use it. Employers should make certain they are monitoring air quality to detect and control for the presence of silica particles. They should also implement safety protocols in order to control for dust exposure.
Workers who develop a job-related disease may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. As proving that an illness resulted from conditions in the work environment may be difficult, injured workers may want to seek the help of a workers’ compensation attorney who can help gather the needed medical documentation demonstrating that the disease resulted from workplace exposure. Such documentation may be necessary in the event that the employer or its insurance carrier disputes or denies the claim. In such an event, an attorney may provide representation at a subsequent hearing. A successful claim can provide benefits to cover medical costs as well as a percentage of wages lost due to an absence from work.
Source: EHS Today, “OSHA and NIOSH: Protect Workers from Silica Exposure during Countertop Installation”, Sandy Smith, Feb. 19, 2015