Silicosis is an incurable lung disease that develops due to prolonged exposure to silica dust. Workers in the construction industry are at increased risk of exposure to silica dust, which is produced by grinding, cutting, drilling, or otherwise disturbing materials such as stone, rock, and concrete. Other types of at-risk workers include:
Symptoms of Silicosis
It may take years for symptoms of silicosis to appear. Depending on the stage of the disease, patients may exhibit various symptoms such as shortness of breath, fatigue, chronic cough, chest pain, and respiratory failure. Early diagnosis of silicosis can be difficult because symptoms are often mistaken for other, less serious conditions. Silicosis is presently incurable and in its advanced stages may cause patients to be at increased risk for other diseases such as tuberculosis, chronic bronchitis, and lung cancer.
What Causes Silicosis?
Workers may develop silicosis for various reasons, including a lack of adequate safety equipment, exposure to unsafe levels of respirable silica particles, or failure to comply with safety regulations. Whatever the cause, workers with silicosis may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits under Pennsylvania’s no-fault workers’ compensation system. The experienced workers’ compensation lawyers at Larry Pitt & Associates, P.C. are dedicated to helping those suffering from a work-related illness obtain the medical care, wage replacement, and other benefits to which they are entitled.
Professions at Risk for Silicosis
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports that approximately 2.3 million workers in the U.S. are exposed to silica. According to OSHA, silicosis typically develops when workers are exposed to respirable crystalline silica during the manufacturing of certain products and during certain construction or agricultural operations.
Respirable crystalline silica are small particles, at least 100 times smaller than sand, which can become stuck in ones’ lungs when inhaled. Workers are at increased risk of developing silicosis if they engage in activities that expose them to respirable crystalline silica dust, such as:
- Brick, stone, glass, or ceramic products manufacturing
- Crushing rock
- Demolition work
- Drilling concrete
- Grinding mortar
- Road construction work
Silicosis is preventable through limitation of occupational exposure. Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act), employers are required to comply with the applicable OSHA safety and health standards for the industry.
OSHA’s Respirable Crystalline Silica Standard
In 2016, OSHA implemented the Respirable Crystalline Silica Standard (the standard) for both the construction industry and the general and maritime industries. The standard requires employers in both the construction and the general/maritime industries to take certain steps to protect employees from the hazards associated with respirable crystalline silica exposure, including:
- Exposure control methods – Employers must either comply with established control standards or implement their own based on independent determinations of workers’ exposure and needs.
- Housekeeping – Employers must not allow dry sweeping, dry brushing, or the use of compressed air unless other methods are not feasible. General industry employers must also establish regulated areas where employees are expected to be exposed to dangerous levels of silica, demarcate those areas from the rest of the workplace, and limit access to them.
- Written exposure control plan – Employers must identify the tasks and procedures that will be implemented to protect workers.
- Medical surveillance – Workers who are regularly exposed to respirable crystalline silica should be offered periodic medical examinations.
- Communication of hazards – Employees have a right to be informed of the hazards associated with respirable crystalline silica exposure and trained on the proper way to handle it.
- Recordkeeping – Records of air monitoring, medical surveillance, and other relevant data should be maintained and made available.
Additional Safety Precautions for Working Around Respirable Crystalline Silica
Workers who are exposed to respirable crystalline silica should be provided with the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) such as the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)-certified respirators. OSHA also provides the following recommendations:
- Do not eat, drink, or smoke near crystalline silica dust
- Use water sprays and wet methods for breaking down materials
- Utilize engineering controls such as local exhaust ventilation
- Wash hands and face after exposure to crystalline silica dust
- Wear NOISH-approved respirators
Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation Attorneys at Larry Pitt & Associates, P.C. Help Workers with Silicosis Obtain the Benefits They Deserve
If you developed silicosis due to hazardous workplace exposures, contact a Philadelphia workers’ compensation attorney at Larry Pitt & Associates, P.C., We can help you get the compensation you deserve, including any potential damages from responsible third parties. Complete our online contact form or call us at 888-PITT-LAW today to arrange a free consultation.
We represent injured workers in Berks County, Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, Montgomery County, Philadelphia County, and throughout Pennsylvania, including those in the communities of Abington, Ambler, Ardmore, Bala Cynwyd, Bensalem, Clifton Heights, Crum Lynne, Darby, Downingtown, Doylestown, Drexel Hill, Essington, Folcroft, Glenolden, Haverford, Havertown, Holmes, Kutztown, Lansdowne, Media, Merion Station, Morton, Narberth, Norristown, Norwood, Philadelphia, Prospect Park, Quakertown, Reading, Roxborough, Sharon Hill, Upper Darby, West Chester, and Wynnewood.