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The risks of silicosis

On Behalf of | May 16, 2023 | Workplace Illness

Working with stone and rocks can be dangerous for several reasons. Stones can fall and crush workers; breaking rocks could cause pieces to fly into workers’ faces. Carrying heavy loads of stones can also lead to accidents and muscle strain-related injuries.

But there’s another less obvious but hazardous risk when working with stone: silicosis.

What is silicosis?

Silicosis is a lung disease formed after a person breathes in silica dust. When inhaled, the fine dust particles find their way into the air spaces in a person’s lungs. Over time, nodules and scars will form over the trapped particles, hardening the lungs and making breathing difficult for the affected person. Those who develop silicosis don’t usually exhibit symptoms until a period of about 10 to 15 years passes when the scar tissue formations become more apparent.

Experts have also warned that exposure to silica dust can also increase the risk of tuberculosis and lung cancer.

Workers at risk of silicosis

The risk and severity of silicosis increase depending on how much a person is exposed to fine silica dust. The following professions are most at risk of inhaling silica dust:

  • Miners: Crushing rocks can release silica dust, exposing miners to the particulates.
  • Construction workers: Concrete work and masonry expose construction workers to risk.
  • Demolition workers: Destroying buildings can release large clouds of silica that harm workers and bystanders.
  • Manufacturing workers: The production of things like cement and asphalt can expose workers to silica dust.
  • Stonecutters: Like miners and construction workers, stonecutters can also contract silicosis for similar reasons.
  • Agricultural workers: Farming activities that kick up a lot of dust can expose workers to silica.

The more frequently a job exposes workers to silica dust, the worse their silicosis symptoms will be.

How workers compensation can help

Workers in Ohio can claim compensation for their silicosis through the state-operated workers’ compensation fund. The compensation can help cover their medical bills, cover for any wages they lost because of the disease, and even offer benefits if their condition affects their ability to work.

Workers with silicosis are also entitled to change of occupation (COA) benefits. They can claim COA benefits if a healthcare professional has advised that they change jobs to prevent further exposure to silica dust.

Silicosis is a dangerous disease that currently has no cure. But like any workplace-related injury or illness, claiming compensation for silicosis can be a difficult task, and the state fund could even deny the claim. To ensure they can secure enough money for their treatment and/or ensure they can smoothly transition into a safer job, workers might want to seek help from an attorney with experience in workers’ compensation cases.