Traumatic injuries can occur as the result of impact to the body. Other conditions, called occupational diseases, develop over time as a result of conditions at work. Exposure to workplace irritants, such as dust, fibers, smoke, sprays, and vapors in a variety of industries can lead to debilitating respiratory diseases that impact a person’s quality of life and ability to maintain employment.
According to the American Lung Association, occupational lung disease is the most common occupation-related illness facing workers throughout the United States. In most cases, workers are in contact with hazardous agents over a long period, but for others, one-time exposure to a toxic agent leads to disease.
Understanding Occupational Respiratory Disease
The American Lung Association defines occupational lung diseases as conditions caused primarily by environmental factors on the job, including single or long-term exposure to hazardous agents. With smoking, the severity of these conditions increases significantly.
Occupational respiratory diseases include:
- Asthma: A condition where the airways narrow and create extra mucus, making it hard to breathe
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease: An umbrella term for a group of lung diseases that make it increasingly difficult to breathe
- Influenza: A viral infection which attacks the respiratory system
- Lung cancer: Cancer that begins in the lungs and is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the country
- Mesothelioma: Incurable cancer in the tissue surrounding the lungs and other parts of the body
- Pneumoconiosis: Caused by breathing particles, such as asbestos, coal dust, and free crystalline silica, which leads to scarring on the lungs and potential cancer
- Pneumonia: Infection in the air sacs of one or both lungs
While many of these respiratory diseases are highly treatable, others are permanent and even fatal. The best treatment for these conditions is prevention. Protecting workers from exposure to hazardous agents is an employer’s responsibility. Precautions for preventing job-related respiratory disease include proper ventilation, masks, respirators, and extensive first aid and safety training at every level.
Recognize the Signs of Occupational Respiratory Disease
Workers who become injured on the job may know how to seek medical attention for obvious injuries like lacerations and broken bones. Because respiratory disease symptoms are more subtle, they may be overlooked or mistaken for something as simple as a common cold. All workers exposed to hazardous agents in any capacity should know the signs and symptoms of respiratory disease, which include:
- Chest pain or tightness
- Difficulty breathing
- Dry, scratchy, or sore throat
- Muscle pain
- Runny nose
It is important for workers to record their symptoms, report them to their employer at the first sign of concern, and seek the appropriate medical care. All these steps are important should the worker choose to file a workers’ compensation claim for benefits related to their job-related respiratory disease.
South Jersey Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Pietras Saracino Smith & Meeks, LLP Handle Respiratory Disease Claims
Without proper safety protections and policies, respiratory disease victims are left to suffer serious, life-altering health problems. South Jersey workers’ compensation lawyers at Pietras Saracino Smith & Meeks, LLP advocate for workers impacted by respiratory disease and other occupational illnesses. For smart legal guidance during every step of the claims process, call us today at 856-761-3773 or contact us online to schedule a free initial consultation today. Located in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout South Jersey, including the City of Camden.