Although the majority of workers' compensation claims are for workplace injuries, workers diagnosed with occupational diseases are also entitled to benefits. This includes silicosis, a lung disease caused by the inhalation of silica dust.
Silicosis causes lung damage that leads to chronic cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, phlegm production, and bronchitis-like symptoms. It can increase a person's risk of tuberculosis and other respiratory infections. In severe cases, patients will need a lung transplant.
It usually takes 10-15 years of regular exposure for someone to develop silicosis. However, intense exposure can cause someone to develop the disease in as little as a year. There is no specific treatment for silicosis. Care is provided to address the specific symptoms of the condition, and patients are encouraged to limit their exposure to lung irritants.
Occupations at Risk
Silicosis is associated with a number of occupations and industries. Tunnel workers, often known as sandhogs, breathe in massive amounts of silica dust as they dig, blast, and grind through underground rock. They were the first to be diagnosed with silicosis after creating New York's legendary subway system.
Now, one growing concern is the dangers faced by workers making kitchen countertops. Quartz countertops are increasing in popularity due to their durability and stain resistance, but cutting quartz exposes workers to dangerous silica dust. Natural granite also contains silica, but quartz countertops expose workers to twice as much dust—increasing the safety risk. Dry fabrication, where no water is used to suppress the dust from cutting, grinding, or polishing, is particularly dangerous.
Other occupations with a high risk of exposure to silica dust include:
- Rock drillers
- Roof bolters
- Construction laborers
- Heavy equipment mechanics
Someone who is not exposed to silica dust through their work is not at risk of developing the condition. In day-to-day life, people do not encounter enough airborne silica dust to develop silicosis.
Receiving Workers' Compensation Benefits for Silicosis
New York law allows workers who've been diagnosed with conditions related to their employment to receive the same workers' compensation benefits as those suffering on-the-job injuries. However, since silicosis develops over time, these types of cases can be uniquely challenging. You need an experienced workers' compensation attorney to protect your rights and ensure that your claim is not unfairly denied.
If you've been diagnosed with silicosis and are having trouble receiving workers' compensation benefits, call O'Connor Law to schedule a free, no-obligation initial consultation. Our offices are conveniently located for residents of Westchester, Nassau, Suffolk, Rockland, Putnam, and Orange counties, as well as those living in Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens, and Manhattan.