The hazards posed by respirable crystalline silica threaten the long-term health of Texas workers. Workplace activities that expose workers to silica dust include sawing, cutting, crushing, drilling, and grinding concrete, stone, bricks, rock and mortar. Although employers must protect workers against hazards that could cause occupational injuries or illnesses, many workers develop silicosis many years later, often when they are no longer working where the damage occurred. When that happens, claiming workers’ compensation benefits might be problematic.
Silicosis is a non-reversible, permanent lung disease. However, respirable crystalline silica can also cause lung cancer, kidney disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Symptoms include severe cough, breath shortness, fever, weakness, night sweats and weight loss. Sometimes, workers mistake the signs and believe they have flu.
Types of silicosis
Workers inhale silica dust, which builds up in the lungs, causing one of the following silicosis types:
- Acute silicosis: Exposure to silica dust in extremely high concentrations could cause silicosis within a few weeks to two years.
- Accelerated silicosis: High concentrations of silica dust could cause silicosis after five to 10 years.
- Chronic silicosis: Relatively low exposure to silicosis over an extended period could remain hidden and only become evident as long as 10 or more years later.
There is no cure for silicosis.
The consequences of silica exposure can be life-threatening, and victims are typically unable to continue working after developing any of the mentioned health consequences. Although workers’ compensation insurance covers these illnesses, navigating the claims could prove to be problematic. Proving that their conditions are work-related, or that a previous employer failed to protect them may be best left in the hands of legal counsel. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney in Texas can fight for maximum applicable benefits to cover medical expenses and lost wages.