Construction worker silicosis is an unfortunately common occurrence. Silicosis is a lung disease caused by exposure to crystalline silica. Crystalline silica is a mineral commonly found in concrete, sand, dirt, and rock. During construction projects, crystalline silica particles become airborne, and are then breathable. This silica dust can then enter the lungs and cause scarring, lung tissue damage, and formation of nodules.
Lung damage caused by high silica exposure can lead to difficulty breathing, chronic cough, weight loss, fever, and other symptoms. There is currently no cure for silicosis. The best that sufferers can hope for is early detection and interventions that improve quality of life and slow down progression of the disease.
How are Construction Workers Exposed to Silica?
Construction workers are exposed to crystalline silica in a variety of ways. Many masonry and concrete products contain silica sand, and construction workers use these products, or work with these products on a frequent basis. Some of the most common activities that expose construction workers to silica dust include:
- Abrasive blasting of concrete or metal (abrasives are often made of silica sand).
- Hammering, drilling, or chipping away rock.
- Hammering, drilling, chipping, sawing, or grinding of masonry or concrete.
- Crushing, loading, or hauling of rock.
- Demolition of masonry or concrete structures.
- Pressurized blowing of sand or concrete dust.
Any activity that causes dust to form has the potential to expose construction workers to silica dust.
Preventing Construction Worker Silicosis
Silicosis is a disease that is considered to be 100 percent preventable. Construction workers may be exposed to silica dust as part of their occupation, but there are protective and preventative measures that can be taken to prevent breathing in airborne silica particles. In fact, there are federal guidelines for limiting exposure to silica dust.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has specific guidelines for work environments where silica dust may be a hazard. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also both have recommendations for preventing construction worker silicosis. These guidelines and recommendations include:
- Construction workers should be made aware of the health risks associated with respirable crystalline silica.
- Construction workers should attend routine medical examinations.
- Anyone working in a construction environment should receive training on health risks and proper safety strategies.
- Construction site supervisors should measure dust levels and take action if they exceed federal limits.
- When possible, construction sites should be provided less hazardous abrasive/blasting agents.
- Any blasting activities should be controlled using dust collectors, ventilation, wet methods, or cabinets to prevent dust exposure.
- Construction workers should be aware that high silica exposure is most common in enclosed areas with little ventilation.
- Proper respirators should always be worn when working with pressure, sandblasting, or abrasive blasting.
- Respirators should not be the first or only line of defense against respirable silica dust. Proper safety controls must be established as a first line of defense.
- Construction workers can limit their exposure to silica dust by changing out of work clothes before entering their vehicle or home.
- Construction workers should never eat, drink, or use tobacco products in areas where silica dust may be airborne.
- Always wash hands and face before touching or consuming food or drinks.
Construction workers who are concerned about health and safety guidelines, or believe that they have been exposed to silica dust, can contact their regional OSHA office to find out more about state or local guidelines.
Get Help with Your Construction Worker Silicosis Claim
If you have ever worked in construction and have been diagnosed with silicosis, the silicosis lawyers at AkinMears, L.L.P. want to speak with you. Even if your exposure to silica dust occurred decades ago, you may have a claim against your employer or a manufacturer who exposed you to silica without proper warning or protective gear.
Find out more about silicosis lawsuits and your legal rights by contacting AkinMears, L.L.P. to schedule a free consultation. Call us toll free at 877-537-5750, or fill out our online form to get started.