Dust may seem like a minor thing. In your home, you may use little more than a spritz of furniture spray and a soft cloth to remove the dust from your surfaces. However, on the job, the dust you deal with may be far more sinister.
If you are among the more than two million workers in the U.S. whose jobs involve exposure to stone cutting or similar hazards, you may think you are inhaling dust. What may actually be entering your lungs is a fine, soft powder called silica. Crystalline silica is a component of a variety of minerals, such as quartz, granite and sand. If your Louisiana job involves cutting, crushing or drilling these minerals, you may be at risk of silica exposure, which can lead to cancer, silicosis and other lung diseases.
Were you exposed at work?
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has established limits to the amount of exposure to crystalline silica your employer may allow. Your employer must comply with these limits as well as providing you with suitable personal protection, such as a respirator or disposable protective clothing, as your level of exposure requires. Other steps your employer can take to reduce the chances that you will suffer exposure to this deadly substance include the following:
Substituting safer materials for those containing crystalline silica
Using methods of controlling dust administratively, such as exhaust ventilation and water sprays
Providing high-quality personal protection equipment that is appropriate for the job you do
Offering training for all employees who are at risk of silica exposure
Providing health screenings for employees to monitor for symptoms of lung ailments or other health issues related to silica exposure
Prohibiting eating, drinking, smoking or other activities in areas that may increase the chances of ingesting or inhaling silica dust
Providing places outside the dusty areas where you can wash your face and hands
These minimal considerations may go a long way toward protecting you from exposure to crystalline silica, which can result in serious illnesses for which there are no cures. The outcome of silicosis and other conditions is often increased suffering, respiratory failure and death.
If you have already received a diagnosis of silicosis, lung cancer or another ailment related to your on-the-job exposure to crystalline silica, you may have concerns about the expense of your medical treatments as well as the future welfare of your family. Consulting with an experienced attorney can provide you with answers to your questions and options for protecting your rights.