The law requires employers to provide workers a safe environment. Depending on the industry you work in, that could require a significant amount of precautions. Do you work in an industry that exposes you to airborne hazards or areas with limited oxygen? Then, your employer must provide for your safety.
Respiratory illness and ailments happen far more often than you might realize. The dust, vapors and other particulates you could breathe in can cause significant damage to your lungs and other parts of your body without the proper protections.
Common respiratory dangers
Depending on the industry and the products and processes used in your work, you could find yourself exposed to one or more of the following:
- Fibers such as fiberglass or asbestos could release into the air during demolition at construction sites.
- Asbestos can also disperse into the air as a dust, along with other substances, such as wood dust, silica dust or mineral dust.
- A mist made up of liquid particles could be in the air, such as oil mist or paint mist.
- Gases such as carbon monoxide or carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulfide and chlorine are the most common across several industries.
- Fumes that consist of solid condensation most often come from zinc, iron and lead.
- Vapors from substances like mineral spirits, toluene or methylene chloride could affect your respiratory health as well.
If any of these respiratory dangers are present in your workplace, your employer must provide you with a way to receive fresh, uncontaminated air. Most often, this means the use of respirators rated for the particular circumstances present in your work. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires your employer to create a respiratory protection program that meets certain criteria.
It’s not enough to simply supply you with protective gear. You need to understand how to use it. You also need access to medical care should you need it. Your employer also needs to put a procedure in place to monitor you and your co-workers as you work in hazardous areas and use respirators.
What to do if you suffer from a respiratory ailment
If you suffer from a work-related respiratory ailment, it could significantly affect your life, even if only temporarily. You will probably not be able to work and will need medical attention. Fortunately, you could apply for workers’ compensation benefits to help with your financial situation, but doing so may not be as easy as it sounds. Making use of the legal resources at your disposal could change that.