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Workers' comp available for silica damage despite new regulations

Employees involved in the manufacture of glass, ceramics, bricks, pottery and artificial stone may be exposed to the dangers posed by crystalline silica. In the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota, many workers' comp claims are filed by workers who are typically also exposed to these dangerous particles. Without the necessary personal protective equipment, workers can become victims of life-threatening diseases.

Crystalline silica is a mineral originating from the crust of the earth, and it is present in sand, mortar, concrete and stone. Safety authorities say about 100 particles of silica could be compared to a single grain of sand. These minuscule particles become airborne and are inhaled by workers during activities such as crushing, drilling, sawing, grinding and cutting materials in the manufacturing and oil and gas industries.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued new protection regulations that are already effective for the construction industry and will be instituted in other industries during 2018. The consequences of inhaling crystalline silica particles include the development of silicosis, which is a debilitating and life-threatening lung disease without a cure. Other potentially deadly conditions that are often the basis for workers' comp claims include lung cancer, kidney disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Even though new stricter regulations may limit the number of new diseases developing from exposure to crystalline silica, North Dakota workers who have been involved in fracking in the oil fields for some time might already have suffered severe health damage. To assist with the ongoing medical expenses of such occupational diseases, victims may pursue financial relief through the workers' comp system. Navigating the claims process while in ill health could be challenging, but fortunately, the support and guidance of an experienced workers' compensation attorney can help in the pursuit of maximum benefits.

Source: osha.gov, "Silica", Accessed on Jan. 19, 2018

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