Stone Fabrication Workers are at risk for occupational lung problems. These problems stem from exposure to silica dust. It is noted in the article that “[o]ver the past few decades, great attention has been paid to the emergence of silicosis cases that are associated with occupational exposure to silica dust generated by the manufacturing, finishing, and installation of AS kitchen and bathroom countertop products, both in fabrication shops and during in-home assembly procedures.” Artificial Stone Associated Silicosis: A Systematic Review, Leso, Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16(4), 568; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16040568
Rose C, Heinzerling A, Patel K, et al. Severe Silicosis in Engineered Stone Fabrication Workers-
In California, Stone Fabrication Work is very popular. Many Homes, Office Buildings, Commercial Buildings, and Apartments have beautiful countertops that are made out of silica-based engineered products. To produce and install these countertop products, there are many skilled workers who are exposed to this harmful respirable crystalline silica. This exposure can cause serious damage to the lungs. This damage, caused by an industrial exposure, gives right to the Injured Worker claiming their benefits and medical care under Workers’ Compensation.
This article will discuss fabricators, how they are exposed to harmful silica, what lung diseases can be caused or aggravated by silica, and how workers’ compensation can assist Fabricators who suffer from industrial exposure to silica.
What is Silicosis?
Silicosis is a progressive, irreversible, and incurable fibrotic pulmonary disease that is caused by the inhalation of respirable crystalline silica (RCS) dust. Artificial Stone Associated Silicosis: A Systematic Review, Leso, Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16(4), 568; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16040568
How Do Workers Get Exposed to Silica? Why Is Important?
The exposure occurs when the “[a]Artificial stone is formed of finely crushed rocks that are mixed with a polymeric resin. Its silica content is approximately 90%, a much higher percentage than the silica content of natural marble (3%) or granite stones (30%) . Through the cutting and grinding of AS slabs with high-energy, powerful devices may result in high levels of exposure to RCS dusts, although little information is currently available regarding concentrations in these specific workplace settings/tasks IIt should be noted that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health have identified exposure to silica as a “health hazard to workers involved in manufacturing, finishing and installing natural and manufactured stone countertop products, both in fabrication shops and during in-home finishing/installation” Artificial Stone Associated Silicosis: A Systematic Review, Leso, Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16(4), 568; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16040568
Work-related injuries require industrial exposure. With respect to silica exposure cases, it is important that Injured Worker prove the nature and extent of their exposure.
The nature and extent analysis looks to the “lifetime cumulative exposure, total amount of inhaled RCS, and individual susceptibility Artificial Stone Associated Silicosis: A Systematic Review, Leso, Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16(4), 568; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16040568
In sum, how long did the Injured Worker do this type of work? How much inhalation was there? Was Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) used? If so, what types of PPE did the Injured Worker use? Were there any other safety precautions taken beyond the use of PPE?
What Happens When Silica is Inhaled?
“Mechanistically, when respirable silica particles are inhaled, they can reach the lower respiratory tract and the gaseous exchange zones where, after having been phagocytosed by alveolar macrophages, they can persist and then trigger an inflammatory process that is characterized by the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS). The inflammation that is generated by ROS damages the pulmonary parenchyma and the subsequent repair/regeneration process leads to fibrogenesis and carcinogenesis” Artificial Stone Associated Silicosis: A Systematic Review, Leso, Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16(4), 568; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16040568
What Medical Conditions Can Come from Silica Exposure?
Silica Exposure has been linked to a variety of medical conditions. “Silicosis is an incurable occupational lung disease caused by inhaling particles of respirable crystalline silica. These particles trigger inflammation and fibrosis in the lungs, leading to progressive, irreversible, and potentially disabling disease. Silica exposure is also associated with increased risk for lung infection (notably, tuberculosis), lung cancer, emphysema, autoimmune diseases, and kidney disease.” Rose C, Heinzerlin A, Patel K, et al. Severe Silicosis in Engineered Stone Fabrication Workers-California, Colorado, Texas and Washington 2017-2019, MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2019;68:813-818. [emphasis added]
What Should an Injured Worker Do?
If an Injured Worker who works with silica based products and suffers from the various medical conditions indicated above, they should strongly consider pursuing a workers’ compensation claim.
Why Should an Injured Worker a Workers’ Compensation Claim?
With respect to a Silica Exposure case, an Injured Worker may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. This includes temporary disability benefits, permanent disability benefits, vocational rehabilitation benefits, and death benefits, if indicated. Also, lifetime medical care will be provided. Further, there are some special Labor Code Sections that may apply in these cases. Labor Code Section 4656 provides for additional temporary disability periods for chronic lung diseases beyond those for ordinary claims.
What If I Need Legal Advice?
If you would like a free consultation concerning any workers’ compensation case, please contact the Law Offices of Edward J. Singer, a Professional Law Corporation. They have been helping people in central and Southern California deal with their worker’s compensation cases for 28 years. Contact us today for more information.