COPD Awareness Month Draws Attention to Workplace Exposure Issues

During the month of November, the US COPD Coalition sponsored COPD awareness month. COPD stands for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary disease, a respiratory condition that develops as a result of breathing in dust, fumes and pollutants. Unfortunately, COPD often develops as a direct result of exposure in the workplace and workers in certain industries are at a greater risk of developing the debilitating condition.

With COPD Awareness Month at an end for the year, our Charlotte workers’ compensation lawyers want to remind employers and workers that it is important to stay vigilant about avoiding respiratory risks during the entire year. Workers also need to be aware of COPD risks and to always get medical help if they suspect that they might be developing respiratory problems. 1401831_industrial_smokestack.jpg

Minimizing the Risk of COPD
COPD is actually a medical term for several different lung problems and breathing issues that impact individuals. There are two main forms of the condition, according to the National Institute of Health. These include:

  • Chronic bronchitis, which usually manifests with a mucus-filled cough
  • Emphysema, which causes progressive deterioration of the lungs.

For most patients afflicted with COPD, they have a combination of both of these problems as well as other respiratory infections or lung diseases. Unfortunately, because of their respiratory issues, many are also fatigued, have trouble breathing and are limited in their ability to perform everyday tasks. More than 120,000 people die of their COPD health issues each year.

Unfortunately, many of those who suffer this debilitating condition or who die as a result of it developed the condition due to exposure in the workplace. Any worker who is routinely exposed to environmental irritants, such as air pollution, fumes, chemicals or dust, can increase his or her risk of developing COPD. Everyday Health, however, indicates that certain workers are at a greater risk than others. For instance, miners, industrial workers, those who work with coal or cotton fibers, and manufacturers of concrete tend to be at the greatest risk of developing COPD.

Any type of repeated or ongoing exposure to environmental hazards, from coal dust in the air to chemicals or pollutants, can be dangerous and workers and employers need to make sure that air quality standards are met in order to minimize COPD risks.

Staying Safe from COPD and Avoiding Workplace Exposure to Toxins
While some industries simply result in more exposure to dust, pollution and toxins than others, there are things employers can do. For example, it is essential for:

  • Employers to comply with OSHA guidelines on air quality
  • Workplace policies to promote minimal exposure to dust. For example, coal workers can reduce the coal dust they breathe in by letting the coal dust settle prior to handling bags.
  • Industrial vacuums and respiratory masks to be used in high-risk environments.

By following these and other safety tips, employers and workers can minimize the chances of a worker developing COPD. Since COPD is the third leading cause of death in the U.S., it is worth making the extra effort to try to stay safe.

If you or your loved one has been injured on-the-job, contact the Carolina Workers’ Compensation Attorneys at Lee Law Offices, P.A. for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your case. Call 1-800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:
Keeping Young Workers Safe on the Job in North Carolina, North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Blog, November 8, 2012

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