Lungs Injuries an Overlooked Cause of Work Illness in North Carolina

It’s estimated that roughly 5 million employees in the U.S are required to wear respirators in close to 1.5 million workplaces working with respiration hazards. These devices help to protect workers against dangerous fogs, dusts, gases, mists, smokes, sprays, vapors and insufficient oxygen environments, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
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Some of the dangers can cause diseases, lung impairment, cancer or even death. And this is why it’s critical that employers adhere to the OSHA Respiratory Protection Standard. Officials believe that the proper application of respiratory protection procedures can prevent approximately 4,000 injuries and illnesses annually as well as 900 deaths from cancer and other chronic diseases.

Our Charlotte workers’ compensation lawyers understand that respirators work in two basic ways to protect workers. First off, they work by removing contaminants from the air before making it into your lungs. Other respirators protect by supplying clean respirable air from another source. Respirators that fall into this category include airline respirators, which use compressed air from a remote source, and self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), which include their own air supply. But these respirators are no good if they’re not being used and if they’re not being used properly. Although, respirators should be used as a “last line of defense.” Workers should use respirators for protection from contaminants in the air only if other hazard control methods are not practical or possible under the circumstances.

Some respiratory hazards act quickly, like carbon monoxide which can make you unconscious or kill you in minutes. Other respiratory hazards can take years to make you sick, like asbestos which can cause lung cancer decades after you breathe it in.

Did you know that the Respiratory Protection Standard (1910.134) is usually one of the top 10 most frequently cited standards following inspections of workplaces by OSHA?

Unfortunately, respiratory protection is addressed in standards specifically for the general, shipyard employment, marine terminals, longshoring, and construction industries.

OSHA requires a hierarchy of controls, under which employers must first implement engineering controls (including elimination, substitution) and/or administrative controls whenever possible. If such controls are not feasible to achieve full compliance, personal protective equipment or any other protective measures must be used to ensure the employees are not exposed to air contaminants above permissible limits.

It’s critical that each employee receive comprehensive respirator training. You do not have to go through basic respirator training every time you change jobs. Your current employer is permitted to accept basic respirator training that you have received from an outside party within the last 12 months. This is known as “training portability.”

The respiratory protection program must include minimum requirements, such as respirator selection, cleaning, maintenance, fitting, and workplace surveillance, among others.

The employer is also required to conduct evaluations of the workplace as necessary to ensure that the provisions of the current written safety program and procedures, including respiratory use, is being effectively implemented and that it continues to be effective.

Contact our Carolina worker’s compensation attorneys today if you or someone you love has been injured on the job. Call 800-887-1965.

More Blog Entries:

Asbestos Dangers a Hidden Threat for Carolina Workers, North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Blog, November 25, 2013

Poisonous Fumes – Exposure to Dangerous Substanes in North Carolina Workplace, North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Blog, November 17, 2013

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