Silicosis: Protect Yourself from a Deadly Occupational Disease

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Silicosis: Protect Yourself from a Deadly Occupational Disease and Health

Silicosis is a deadly, preventable occupational illness that is caused by exposure to respirable crystalline silica dust. Inhaling this dust over time and in high concentrations leads to the development of silicosis, which can lead to permanent disability and death. Thankfully, strategies exist that can help protect you from this devastating workplace illness.

Understanding the Risks

Silicosis is caused by the inhalation of respirable crystalline silica dust, which is created by sandblasting, rock and masonry drilling, and even operating certain agricultural, construction and frac sand equipment. It is estimated that 1.7 million U.S. workers, mostly in the construction and mining industries, are exposed to respirable crystalline silica each year.

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Long-term, high-level exposure to respirable crystalline silica can cause silicosis and an array of other serious respiratory illnesses, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and occupational asthma. The symptoms can be debilitating, including shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, chest tightness and heart failure. In severe cases, silicosis can be fatal.

Prevention Strategies

Fortunately, there are a number of strategies that employers and individuals can take to protect themselves from this deadly occupational hazard. These include:

  • Wear Protective Gear: Employers should provide all employees with the proper safety equipment, including face masks and respiratory protection to shield themselves from the harmful dust particles.
  • Engineering Controls: Employers should install engineering controls, such as ventilation systems, to reduce workers’ exposure tocrystalline silica dust.
  • Schedule Regular Rest Breaks: Employers should ensure that workers take frequent breaks to reduce the amount of crystalline silica dust that is inhaled over the course of a workday or shift.
  • Limit Exposures: Individuals should limit their exposure to respirable crystalline silica in their work environment. Are you working near sandblasting or masonry drilling? Make sure to properly protect yourself with the appropriate safety gear.

Know Your Rights

If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with occupational illnesses such as silicosis, you have rights. You have the right to file a claim for workers’ compensation, seek medical treatment and demand a safe workplace.

Silicosis is an incredibly serious occupational disease with potentially deadly consequences, and it is important to protect yourself and your loved ones from this devastating illness. By following the tips outlined above, you can dramatically reduce your risk of exposure to the hazardous dust particles that lead to this serious illness.

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