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OSHA lags behind on regulatory measures for inhaled toxins

For those in North Carolina who enjoy an active lifestyle, being limited by a debilitating respiratory illness can be a difficult reality to face. Workplace safety advocates have been aware of the dangers of consistently inhaling mineral or metal dust, such as beryllium and silica. Though it is widely known that inhaling such substances is a major concern for workplace safety, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has failed to update its regulatory process to adequately protect workers.

Though many workers' compensation claims involve a damaging workplace accident that took place over the course of mere moments, long-term exposure to certain kinds of dust without the proper precautions in place can cause silicosis, berrylliosis or other virulent respiratory ailments.

Unfortunately, OSHA, the agency designed to protect the interests of workers by enforcing necessary safety measures, has not made any improvements in done regulatory processes for these inhaled toxins over the last decade. For the last 12 years, safety advocates have been pushing to update the standards for workers at risk of inhaling beryllium dust, but their best efforts have been thwarted by OSHA's inability to act swiftly. Shockingly, the same problem has existed for silica dust exposure for over 15 years.

The lung ailments caused by inhaling the dust particles get progressively worse, ultimately resulting in suffocation. This forces those who suffer from the conditions to use oxygen tanks to assist with their breathing. Additionally, silica and beryllium dust exposure has been linked to certain kinds of cancer.

The nature of the progressive workplace illness may pose challenges in filing for workers' compensation claims, since there may not be a clear date when a condition began to develop, which can cause problems when producing the necessary documentation to an employer. If problems arise when filing a claim for workers' compensation, it may be necessary to consult with a knowledgeable attorney. This can increase the likelihood that your claim is ultimately successful.

Knowing the challenges posed by the nature of this type of workplace illness, the hope is that OSHA officials will finally move forward with the proposals that have been brought forth for many years. The livelihood of so many industrial and construction workers may depend on the agency's ability to enforce measures necessary to protect their health.

Source: iWatch News, "OSHA rules on workplace toxics stalled," Jim Morris, June 4, 2012

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