Even the ancient Romans knew that silica exposure was dangerous, yet despite the risks, many modern workers are still in danger. Silica is made of rock and sand, often breathed in by construction and industrial workers. Silica dust is known to cause serious and fatal respiratory illness, including cancer. California workers’ who have contracted silica-related diseases or families of those who have died could be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.

Despite the known dangers, the regulations for silica exposure are lacking. In 1974, a national organization established regulations for the amount of exposure that was acceptable. However, there have been years of legal battles over these levels, and experts believe that the initial regulated levels were too high. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration believes that as many as 2.2 million workers are in danger of silica exposure. 

Tens of thousands of workers are injured or become ill every year due to job-related hazards, many of them California workers. Often workers do not understand their rights regarding financial compensation under these circumstances. As a result, some workers many needlessly languish under difficult physical and financial circumstances after becoming ill because of silica exposure.

The workers’ compensation system is complex, and many workers may find it difficult to get the help and support that is needed. For this reason, it can be beneficial to seek the help of a lawyer who can act as an advocate on behalf of the ill worker or remaining family members. Even a denied benefits claim can successfully be appealed with the correct assistance. Contracting an illness because of silica exposure is tragic, but these workers are not without rights and options. 

Source: slate.com, “Working to Death“, Jamie Smith Hopkins, Maryam Jameel and Jim Morris, June 30, 2015