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Occupational hazards are common for most construction workers, as they have to deal with threats of failing equipment, excessive noise, and other potential workplace dangers. However, the job of a construction worker could be even more hazardous than previously thought, as a new report shows that construction workers who labor in close proximity to crystalline silica dust have significantly increased chances of developing life-threatening illnesses.

What the Research Shows

Researchers from the IRSST (a scientific research organization based in Quebec, Canada) and the University of Montreal examined a literature-centered database that details the levels of exposure to silica. Their goal was to determine which jobs had the highest risk for exposure to the harmful compound.

The researchers were able to determine that, over the course of a standard eight-hour shift, construction workers are exposed to levels of silica that far exceed the acceptable standards established by the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists.

Prolonged exposure to silica dust can cause several major health problems, including cancer and respiratory illnesses. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has determined that workers who are exposed to the compound run the risk of developing silicosis, a serious lung disease. If left untreated, silicosis can cause difficulty breathing, and in worst-case scenarios, the disease can be fatal.

Crystalline silica is a diverse compound that materializes in several different forms, including quartz, cristobalite, and tridymite. It is commonly found in concrete and other masonry products, which is why construction workers are at such high risk for exposure. Construction workers who engage in any of the following activities are at the highest risk for inhaling hazardous crystalline silica particles:

  • Drilling Rock, Concrete, or Masonry Materials — This includes breaking downrock, concrete, and any other type of masonry materials by chipping, hammering, sawing, grinding—basically, any action that causes the rock to break or crumble.
  • Loading, Dumping, or Hauling Broken Down Rock — Yes, even loading and carrying the fragmented rock materials can put workers at risk, as the dust from the broken pieces can be easily stirred up and inhaled.
  • Working Near Certain Materials — Just working in close proximity to these crushed rock fragments can increase workers’ risks for inhaling silica dust.
  • Blasting with Silica Sand — Silica sand is commonly used as an abrasive blasting component. However, regardless of whether silica sand is used, blowing up concrete still places workers at a higher risk for developing complications.
  • Dry Sweeping — Sweeping with a broom or blowing pressurized air to clean up concrete, rock, or sand dust particles will increase the chances for inhaling the dangerous compound.

Construction Workers: Protect Yourself From Harmful Conditions

If you are a construction worker, you have the right to protect yourself from harmful working conditions such as these. If you believe that you have been exposed to silica or are already suffering the long-term side effects of silica exposure, then you may very well be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits under the law. If you file a workers’ compensation claim, and it is denied, you should contact an attorney from W. Winston Briggs Law Firm immediately. Our attorneys specialize in personal injury cases.

Though construction work is difficult, it is never acceptable for workers to be knowingly exposed to harmful compounds that can cause major health issues later in life. Unfortunately, despite growing scientific evidence that clearly highlights the dangers of silica exposure, many companies are unwilling to provide workers’ compensation for construction workers who have been wrongly exposed to silica and other dangerous substances. It is never too late to contact attorney W. Winston Briggs to get the legal advice you deserve!