Each year, around two million workers in the United States are exposed to silica dust. Many of these workers are in the maritime industry, and will go on to develop maritime silicosis. Maritime workers are vulnerable to silica dust exposure because they often work with abrasives, concrete, or glass. When these materials are disturbed, cut, crushed, or exposed to high pressure, tiny particles of silica dust become airborne, and thus breathable.
When silica dust is breathed in, the tiny particles attach themselves to the soft tissues of the lungs. This leads to the formation of nodules, or scarring, around where the particles land. Over time, these nodules and scarring develop into silicosis – an incurable lung disease.
Have You Been Exposed to Silica Dust?
Diagnosing silicosis requires medical and laboratory testing. However, if you have worked in the maritime industry and have cut, drilled, or blasted concrete, granite, sand, or glass, then there is a good chance you have been exposed to silica dust.
Crystalline silica is naturally occurring, and can be found in most rocks, sand, and dirt. As a mineral, silica is not hazardous. When the fine particle become airborne in the form of silica dust, it is extremely hazardous. Any maritime worker who has been exposed to dusty working environments or sandblasting abrasives should contact their healthcare provider if they develop symptoms, such as:
- Chronic Cough
- Chest Pain
- Difficulty Breathing
- Coughing up Phlegm
- Weight Loss
- Edema (Swelling)
These symptoms are not a guarantee that you have maritime silicosis, but should be taken seriously as a red flag that you may have been exposed to silica dust. Silicosis is not curable, but there are treatment options that can slow down progression of the disease and treat some of the most uncomfortable symptoms.
Stricter Enforcement in the Maritime Industry
On June 23, 2018 the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) expanded their “Respirable Crystalline Silica” standards to include all employers in the maritime industry. Prior to 2018, exposure limit guidelines were limited to the construction industry.
The new guidelines meant that maritime employers were, as of that date, required to follow OSHA’s guidelines for exposure limits. Maritime employers are now required to:
- Limit access to environments where silica dust levels are above the exposure limits.
- Undertake measures to reduce airborne dust.
- Provide respirators to employees when needed.
- Provide training to employees on silica dust risks and exposure.
- Measure and monitor silica dust levels.
- Provide medical examinations every three years.
Extending these guidelines to the maritime industry was one way that OSHA has aimed at preventing maritime silicosis.
Get Help with Your Maritime Silicosis Claim
If you have been diagnosed with maritime silicosis, the next step is determining when and where your exposure occurred. The health risks of silica dust are well-documented for decades, yet many employers have failed to warn employees or provide adequate safety gear to prevent exposure.
To find out if you have a maritime silicosis claim, contact AkinMears, L.L.P. Our silicosis lawyer will review every detail of your situation to determine if you are entitled to compensation for the harm you have suffered. Contact our office by calling 844-716-1676, or by completing our online form. Your consultation is completely free.