Granite worker silicosis is well documented. Working with granite requires cutting, sanding and sandblasting – all of which produce dust. This dust contains tiny particles of crystalline silica, which are breathable. Once silica dust enters the lungs, it is difficult to expel. As a result, the particles lodge themselves into the soft tissue, which causes inflammation and scarring.
Silicosis is a lung disease that develops due to occupational exposure to silica dust. It is alarmingly common among construction workers, foundry workers, sandblasters and granite workers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 2.3 million U.S. workers are currently at risk of exposure to silica dust. That includes thousands of granite workers across the U.S.
There are certain parts of the United States where granite mines are more common. Georgia, for example, has a tremendous presence in the granite industry. One Northeast Georgia town has the nickname the “Granite Capital of the World”. Here, it is not uncommon for granite workers to spend their entire lives around granite cutting, sandblasting and manufacturing.
How are Granite Workers Exposed to Silica Dust?
The granite industry is nationwide. Granite is used to manufacture headstones, counter tops, monuments and more. Around 45-50 percent of granite is actually silica. Exposure to silica dust happens in the processes of:
- Cutting granite pieces with powered hand tools
- Grinding or polishing granite pieces
- Contouring stone
- Sandblasting monuments or headstones
- Using ground granite or stone materials
- Mixing ground stone materials
- Cleaning equipment or sandblasting areas
Even workers who do not work directly with granite are at risk of exposure to silica dust if there is not adequate ventilation or respirators.
How to Reduce Granite Worker Silicosis Risk
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has established guidelines for silica dust exposure. To reduce the risk of exposure to silica dust, and therefore reduce the risk of silicosis, employers must ensure that:
- The work environment has proper water sprays, exhaust and ventilation.
- Levels of silica dust in the environment are within exposure limits.
- Workers are provided with personal protective equipment (PPE) that is appropriate for the hazard.
- Train granite workers on the danger of silica dust and silicosis.
- Monitor worker health, and provide medical care for workers exhibiting symptoms of silicosis.
OSHA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) both recognize that silicosis is preventable. Consequently, employers must make sure that their employees and work environments are adequate to mitigate potential risks.
Are You a Granite Worker with a Silicosis Diagnosis?
Silicosis is a progressive disease that can take weeks, months, years or even decades for symptoms to develop. If you are a granite worker and are experiencing cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, crackles or wheezing, get medical attention right away. You may be suffering from silicosis.
If you already have a silicosis diagnosis, contact AkinMears, L.L.P. You may be able to file a legal claim against a current or former employer who exposed you to silica dust. In doing so, you can pursue compensation for the harm you are suffering. Find out more by calling AkinMears, L.L.P. at 855-489-7853 to speak with a silicosis lawyer. You can also contact us online to get more information about your potential granite worker silicosis claim.