October is Healthy Lung Month and it raises awareness of the hidden dangers in our environment. In the workplace, employees can be exposed to a variety of hazards that can affect respiration and contribute to illnesses and long-term diseases. It is estimated that occupational illnesses cost more than $150 billion each year. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) in just one example caused by workplace exposure in nearly 20 percent of cases. It is essential that employees know their rights under the law to a safe and healthy work environment and how to assess whether workplace exposure is causing their respiratory disease.
There are various types of occupational lung diseases. It is important for every employee to be aware of any environmental hazards that can be a factor at work. Work-related asthma is a common occupational disease and can result from workplace inhalants, including irritants and allergens, smoke, fumes, and temperature extremes. A worker who notices their symptoms escalate at work may be suffering from an occupational cause of their asthma.
COPD is another work-related illness where the patient develops a chronic breathing impairment. On-the-job causes can include different inhaled substances, such as diesel fumes, mineral or organic airborne dusts, and chemicals. COPD can occur both in smokers and nonsmokers.
Those who work with hazardous substances, including asbestos, silica, and coal dust, are at risk of interstitial or fibrotic lung disease, in which the person develops scarring and chronic inflammation of the respiratory system. It can also include mesothelioma, a malignant form of cancer seen in those who work with asbestos. Other lung diseases that can have an occupational cause are pneumonitis, lung infections, and airway destruction. Lung cancer, which is notoriously difficult to treat, can also develop from exposure to carcinogens, such as asbestos, silica, and exhaust fumes.
Occupational health and safety protections under the law have specific guidelines for every industry, but workplace lung disease can still occur when regulations are insufficiently enforced or ignored. Workers should consult their company’s Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS), which every employer is required to keep for potentially hazardous substances.
An employee who suspects an occupational illness should consult with their medical provider and file a claim for Workers’ Compensation coverage. However, no employee should attempt to navigate this alone. Employers and insurers can unjustly deny claims and the counsel of an experienced Workers’ Compensation lawyer is critical to obtaining the medical care and compensation you need.
If you developed a work-related illness or disease, contact the experienced Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation lawyers at Gross & Kenny, LLP today. We work tirelessly on behalf of our clients to obtain the financial compensation they deserve. For a free consultation, complete our online form or call us at 267-589-0090. Located in Philadelphia, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania.