Workers can suffer from a wide variety of occupational diseases, injuries and hazards due to the nature of their work environment. The threats from work environment dust in industries like mining, metals, asbestos, cement and other chemical industries can lead to lifelong occupational illness. Unfortunately, Connecticut is no exception to such work-related illnesses that workers face in other states.

A recent report shows how West Virginia miners are still becoming victims of black lung due to lax enforcement of mine-dust safety practices. Miners are exposed to potentially dangerous coal dust accumulated in mines and tunnels. This neglect of occupational safety standards is not unique to West Virginia, but is a nationwide problem.

Many accidents are a result of lack of dust regulation, and workers should be aware of some of these recommendations and standards. The U.S. Chemical Safety Board has made recommendations to prevent such combustible accidents. The Board has suggested that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration should formulate general standards for preventing accidents caused due to fires. These standards should be based on assessments, explosion threats, housekeeping practices, worker training, building design and technical requirements.

The federal government has been lukewarm in addressing dust issues. The danger of dust affects many industries. The Center for Public Integrity has reported that since 1980, 450 dust-related accidents have occurred in the U.S., causing 130 deaths and 800 injuries. Unfortunately, the reporting standards are lax, so there could be more.

Exposure to harmful dust can cause long-term effects and diseases such as lung disease, cancer, asbestosis, allergies and other issues. These types of conditions can be extremely unhealthy for employees who have been exposed. Workers need to be aware of their rights under law and how to obtain compensation for having to suffer a work-related illness.

Source: The Charleston Gazette, “Preventable: Quiet, deadly dust,” Dec. 27, 2012