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What can employers do to limit risk of occupational asthma?

Over time, workplace safety officials have realized that some of the biggest occupational hazards are not necessarily the most obvious ones. As Greensboro workers may already know, many years of exposure to small amounts of certain chemicals can develop into a workplace illness requiring medical attention.

One latent -- perhaps unexpected -- illness has received the attention of workplace safety advocates: Occupational asthma is a condition that affects thousands of people who are exposed to dust and chemical fumes in their line of work. In fact, the American Thoracic Society estimates that 15 percent of asthma cases among adults are related to their work environment.

Asthma occurs when the airway narrows, which can happen as the result of a long-term medical condition or environmental factors. In some cases, occupational asthma may reduce an employee's productivity if it is untreated. In other cases, severe cases can result in much more serious medical consequences that may hinder a person's ability to work.

The important thing to remember is that employers can take steps to prevent cases of occupational asthma by carefully managing exposure to dust and chemical fumes in the workplace. By ensuring that proper safety equipment is installed or employees have personal respirators as needed, the risk of developing occupational asthma markedly decreases.

Beyond preventative measures, employers can also make efforts to help and accommodate employees who have developed this medical condition. In some instances, those with severe occupational asthma may become eligible for workers' compensation benefits because they are unable to work while dealing with their health concerns. Providing this kind of support may be just what employees need to remain financially solvent while still trying to get healthy.

Source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, "Prevention of Occupational Asthma: Primer," July 27, 2010

  • Taking the necessary steps to file a workers' compensation claim can be complicated, especially for a work-related illness. To learn more, please see our Greensboro workers' compensation page.

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