More than two million workers across the United States are exposed to crystalline silica each year. Exposure to silica can cause silicosis, which is a serious disease that can be disabling and sometimes fatal. It is estimated that there are about three hundred deaths due to silicosis every year. Crystalline silica dust that is airborne and then inhaled has also been linked to other diseases such as lung cancer and tuberculosis. Silicosis is also commonly misdiagnosed as pneumonia and pulmonary edema.
Crystalline silica dust that is inhaled can cause a number of ailments and diseases such as: fevers, fatigue, chest pain, tuberculosis, respiratory failure, bluish skin, loss of appetite, lung cancer, shortness of breath, and death.
Crystalline silica can be found in a variety of products and substances including the following: concrete, granite, blasting abrasives, sand, slate, cement mortar, mineral deposits, topsoil, brick, sandstone, asphalt, stone, and rock. This then translates into workers in certain occupations being at higher risk for developing silicosis. High risk occupations include: sandblasting, well drilling, rock drilling, asphalt pavement manufacturing, those who work in foundries, concrete cutting, brick cutting, glass manufacturing, miners, cement manufacturing, shipbuilders, jackhammer operators, concrete tunneling, railroad workers, concrete mixing, and soap detergent workers.
The symptoms of silicosis are not always entirely clear, and the disease can often go unnoticed in its earliest stages. When people are exposed to silica on a continual basis, the first symptom that may be noticed is shortness of breath while exercising, along with skin that appears somewhat bluish near the lips or ear lobes, and possible a fever. Silicosis also makes people more likely to suffer with an infectious disease such as those affecting the lungs like tuberculosis. As silicosis continues to progress, patients may notice a loss of appetite, a feeling of fatigue, shortness of breath that is now extreme, pain in the chest area, and eventually respiratory failure which may result in death. The acute form of silicosis can develop after just a short period of exposure to silica; however chronic silicosis typically occurs after a person has been exposed to lower levels of quartz for ten years or more.
Because of the danger of being exposed to silica and inhaling crystalline silica dust, employers in certain industries are required to take certain precautions in order to protect workers. This means workers must be provided with appropriate personal protective equipment, respirators, masks, and adequately ventilated work areas. Unfortunately, there are many times when employers opt to cut corners to save a bit of money and do not provide all of the safety gear and equipment that is needed to work safely.
When employers fail to provide basic safety measures, a form of negligence has taken place. This is not acceptable and cannot be allowed to continue to happen without some type of punishment. Workers who have been exposed to silica dust in the work place need to understand that they have legal rights that can be enforced and need to be protected. The best way to go about doing this is to consult with a qualified personal injury attorney who specializes in the area of employer negligence and work place safety.
These legal professionals will take the time to review the details of your case, collect evidence, gather medical records, speak to witnesses, and even arrange for experts to testify if necessary. After a complete evaluation is done, your attorney will determine all of the parties who played a role in your injuries and will devise a plan to file suit to recover damages.
Since these cases can be extremely complex and often involve a large number of very small details, you should not delay in speaking with a personal injury attorney. There are also many different statutes of limitations that need to be followed, and missing just one deadline could cause your claim to be dismissed entirely. You should not risk being a victim twice. Most personal injury attorneys work on a contingency basis, which means you pay nothing until the time your case is settled. Not having to worry about mounting legal bills as your case progresses through the court system can be a great comfort, and will allow you to focus your attention on more important matters, such as your personal health and recovery.
Common types of compensation for legal claims such as these include: medical bills, past, present, and future; loss of income; pain and suffering; emotional harm; and loss of quality of life. In certain circumstances, punitive damages which are a type of punishment meant to keep similar acts from happening again in the future can also be sought.
If you have lost a loved one because of exposure to silica dust and the resulting silicosis, you may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the deceased. Even though a personal injury attorney cannot bring back your loved one, he or she can help you to recover damages such as those listed above, as well as compensation for loss of life and to help cover funeral expenses. This can provide a certain amount of comfort as well.
Employers owe their employees a particular duty of care that allows them to work in a setting that is safe and free from potential harm that can be prevented. There are many laws and OSHA guidelines in place that place certain requirements on employers that regularly use hazardous materials or have hazardous conditions. When these laws are broken or the guidelines are not followed, negligence has occurred and legal action needs to be taken. Companies should not be allowed to continue to place profits ahead of people, and treat their employees as if they are disposable workers. Workers are entitled to safe working conditions at all times and should be treated in an appropriate manner. Taking legal action when this is not the case is not only beneficial to yourself and to your family, but it also helps to protect others from having to suffer the same consequences down the road.