Many workers here in Arizona seek workers' compensation for on-the-job injuries suffered during the course of work. However, the workers' compensation system also allows compensation for occupational illnesses. In many cases, the types of dangers that lead to such diseases are well known, and employers and even government agencies will work to reduce the risk. Unfortunately, these actions aren't always as effective as they should be, and workers can still suffer the consequences.
Take, for example, Sillicosis, which is a lung disease related to the inhalation of silica dust. According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, over 2 million workers in this country are exposed to such dust in their workplaces, which most often are mining or construction in nature. According to research, the silica dust - which breaks down to a size over a hundred times finer than sand - can be inhaled and coat a workers' lungs. To battle this, the body starts to form scar tissue which eventually affects breathing and normal lung function.
The issue here is that the rule regulating the appropriate levels of exposure is based on old science, and it appears that non-scientific interests may be holding back an update that would take into account more recent studies and lower the acceptable level. Despite this lengthy opposition, it appears that progress is finally being made as a new proposed rule will enter a public commenting period. Still, the process could go on for another few years before the rule is fully implemented.
Of course, while the old rule remains in effect, workers at risk may continue to develop this unfortunate occupational disease that may keep them from continuing on in their chosen field. In such documented cases, workers' compensation may be able to help bridge the financial gap left by the exposure and subsequent illness by aiding with medical bills, lost wages and more. While a safer workplace will always be welcomed, workers' compensation remains an effective tool for those directly affected by occupational diseases.
Source: LiveScience.com, "Clearing the Pathway: Deadly Lung Disease Can Be Prevented (Op-Ed)," Seth Shulman, Sept. 11, 2013