Are welders at a greater risk of developing lung cancer?
Welding companies offer good-paying jobs for skilled tradespeople, and this career can be incredibly fulfilling for employees who like to work with their hands. Unfortunately, the honest workers who hold these jobs could be at an increased risk of serious health problems due to their environment.
A new study found that workers who are exposed to welding fumes are more likely to develop lung cancer than workers who were not exposed. Researchers examined data from 45 previous studies, which included about 17 million participants overall. Workers exposed to welding fumes were 43% more likely to develop lung cancer.
This trend holds true even when adding factors such as smoking and asbestos exposure. Researchers also reviewed the studies that accounted for smoking and asbestos exposure on their own, and welding was still associated with a 17% higher risk of developing lung cancer.
However, researchers were limited by a lack of data determining whether cancer risk varied for different welding processes. They couldnâ€™t determine if there were greater or lesser risks for workers who performed flux-core arc welding, gas metal arc welding or gas tungsten arc welding. They also lacked data on the duration of weldersâ€™ exposure.
Even without the additional data, researchers still concluded the results identify the need for improved safety measures to reduce fume exposure in the workplace. Welders who develop lung cancer at work may be forced to miss work and pay for treatment. If this happens, their employer may be responsible for compensating the employee.
New York, 5 other states sue over new OSHA rule
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has long required employers to maintain records of every occupational illness or workplace injury that occurred among their employees. These records were to be kept available for OSHA to inspect.
In 2016, however, a new rule was put in place for employers with 250 or more employees. Instead of merely maintaining the records, these large employers would be required to submit them electronically to OSHA.
The idea was to make it easier for both employers and OSHA to get a sense of overall workplace illnesses and injuries, to spot worrisome trends, and to target resources toward problem areas. It would encourage companies to recognize and abate hazards on their own. It would give workers the information they need to identify risks in their own workplaces. It would provide crucial information to researchers who study occupational health and safety. Ultimately, it would help make workplaces safer and prevent on-the-job injuries and illnesses.
Troublingly, OSHA has just announced a near-complete reversal on the rule.
The 2016 rule required large employers to submit an annual summary of work-related illnesses and injuries; a log of those illnesses and injuries; and an injury or illness incident report. OSHAâ€™s new proposed rule would eliminate required submission of the second and third forms.
Why has OSHA rolled back a rule that could promote greater safety?
In a statement, OSHA claimed that it eliminated the electronic submission of the detailed reports to protect workersâ€™ privacy.
â€śBy preventing routine government collection of information that may be quite sensitive, including descriptions of workersâ€™ injuries and body parts affected, OSHA is avoiding the risk that such information might be publicly disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act,â€ť it said.
It also asserted that reversing the requirement will â€śimprove enforcement targeting and compliance assistance, protect worker privacy and safety, and decrease burden on employers.â€ť
Six states, including New York, sue to put rule back in place
New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Maryland, Illinois and Minnesota have filed a federal lawsuit to prevent the rollback of the 2016 rule. They consider the electronic submission of the detailed information to be â€śan essential toolâ€ť for tracking workplace hazards.
They say that when the rule was adopted in 2016, worker privacy was taken into account. Even the detailed reports contain no personally identifiable information. The states call OSHAâ€™s defense of the change illogical and unjustified.
Do you think submitting forms electronically â€” forms they are already required to complete â€” is unduly burdensome for large employers? Or does the potential for increased worker safety and health justify the collection of this data?
Diagnosing occupational disease
Work-related injuries are not always obvious, and they do not always occur immediately or because of a single event. Some work-related harms develop over long periods of time and slowly present themselves via chronic, remitting or relapsing symptoms. An occupational disease is one such harm, a harm that affects many New York workers.
According to Encyclopedia Britannica, an occupational illness is one that health care providers associate with a certain occupation or industry. These types of diseases result from a variety of chemical, psychological, biological and physical factors that are present in a workspace and that employees encounter on a frequent basis. Occupational illnesses are compensable under workersâ€™ comp law because the accepted belief is that they are preventable. Individuals generally only develop an occupational disease if the working conditions are somehow faulty.
Like any other work-related injury, occupational illness is compensable under workersâ€™ compensation law. However, in order to obtain compensation for the damages associated with the disease, a worker must prove that the illness is, in fact, work-related. Proving this requires a carefully obtained diagnosis.
American Family Physician explains how insurers and medical providers work together to diagnose an illness and determine whether or not it is work-related. First, the physician would conduct a physical exam to identify the disease. Then, he or she would consider whether any factors present in the personâ€™s workplace or previous place of employment might have contributed to or aggravated the condition. If necessary, the physician would order other tests to corroborate causation.
Some other factors a physician might use to determine the etiology of an illness include studies regarding the accepted or suspected adverse symptoms of identified occupational exposures; the period between possible exposure and symptom onset; possible latency periods; and non-occupational work factors. Physicians should also consider occupational etiology in cases in which the patient does not fit the typical demographic profile of a certain disease.
Women more likely to be injured at work
The National Safety Council (NSC) has recently parsed the data regarding those injured in the workplace in 2017. Its analysis was published on its Injury Facts web site. The bottom line is that it is an enlightening read, but it was not good news for women who work.
Assaults on women are much higher
Perhaps the most disturbing data was that women sustained 70 percent of all assault-related injuries that are not fatal. This adds up to 12,820 incidents in 2017 and a 60 percent jump between 2011 and 2017. Men sustained 5,530 assault-related injuries that were not fatal in 2017.
Other workplace safety issues for women
The NSC analysis also pointed to other instances where women were more likely to be injured on the job:
- Women make up 61 percent of complications due to repetitive motion
- Women make up 59 percent of injuries accidentally caused by another individual
- Women make up 57 percent of falls on the same level
Professions more dangerous for women
There are also certain common occupations where women sustain non-fatal injuries or illness at a disproportionately higher rate:
- Women in the healthcare industry sustain 80 percent of these injuries and illnesses
- Women in education sustain 61 percent of these injuries and illnesses
- Women performing office work sustain 60 percent of these injuries and illnesses
Women deserve a safe work environment
It will be interesting to find out what the NSCâ€™s breakdown of numbers in a state-by-state analysis. However, employers here in New York need not wait to institute new protocols to better ensure that the workplace is safer for everyone.
The injured or ill women worker should seek medical care as soon as possible. It may also be necessary to file a workersâ€™ compensation claim or seek damages through a personal injury suit against the negligent parties or individual. In either case, an attorney with experience in workplace injuries here in Brooklyn and the surrounding area will be a tremendous asset for the successful resolution of their dispute or injury claim so the women worker can focus on her recovery.
Long Island construction worker loses legs below the knees
A 39-year-old man was working on installing a gas main in Roslyn Heights recently when a falling steel plate knocked him into a 10-foot hole and landed on him, severing his legs below the knee. According to Nassau County police, officers climbed into the hole after the stricken man and applied tourniquets to control the bleeding. Their efforts undoubtedly saved the manâ€™s life, and he was in a hospital in stable condition days after the incident.
The cause of this accident is still under investigation, according to the Associated Press. We simply cannot know who was responsible for the displacement of the steel plate. Therefore, the information in this blog post is general, but we wanted to give a sense of this manâ€™s legal rights for your general understanding.
The construction worker almost certainly has a workersâ€™ compensation claim, to start. In New York, injured workers are entitled to both medical care and weekly cash benefits to compensate them for lost wages. When a worker suffers a disabling injury, New Yorkâ€™s workersâ€™ compensation law provides benefits based on;
Temporary partial disability â€” a condition that will keep you from your regular work for a time
Temporary total disability â€” a condition that will keep you from working at all, but only for a time
Permanent partial disability â€” a condition that will limit your ability to work forever
Permanent total disability â€” a condition that will keep you from working at all, permanently. (You should ask a workersâ€™ compensation attorney if your condition qualifies as a permanent total disability.)
Additionally, the loss of limbs can qualify the worker for Schedule Loss of Use or Non-Schedule benefits. Although filing a workersâ€™ compensation claim does not require a lawyer, one is definitely recommended in serious cases like amputations.
In addition to a workersâ€™ comp claim, the construction worker could also have a personal injury claim against certain parties, if their negligence or wrongdoing caused his injuries.
The workersâ€™ compensation system is set up so that workers do not have to prove their employer was negligent in order to obtain benefits. In exchange, workers cannot file personal injury suits against their employer or any co-workers.
On construction sites, however, there are often multiple companies involved. The landowner, another contractor, a subcontractor, a vendor, a supplier or any other company involved in the project could potentially be responsible for the injuries, depending on the situation. If a party besides his employer or coworkers was negligent and that negligence led to the injury, this worker could have a legitimate personal injury claim against that party.
OHSA: Employers and workers need to be aware of carbon monoxide
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has just issued a reminder to employers that they need to protect their workers from the potentially deadly effects of exposure to carbon monoxide. Winter is a prime season for carbon monoxide poisoning, as buildings are closed up tight against the cold. And, indeed, there have recently been incidents in which people have been poisoned by carbon monoxide from portable generators and other combustion engines being used in enclosed spaces.
Carbon monoxide is a colorless and odorless gas that can be toxic. Symptoms of overexposure vary between victims, but can include:
- Dizziness or drowsiness
- Tightness across the chest
- Sudden chest pain in people with angina
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Muscle weakness
OSHA warns that carbon monoxide, in sufficient amounts, can overcome a person in mere minutes, causing a loss of consciousness and eventual suffocation. Severe overexposure can result in coma, neurological damage and even death.
If you begin to feel symptoms of carbon monoxide exposure, avoid overexertion and promptly leave the contaminated area.
If you suspect someone has been exposed to carbon monoxide, immediately move them to an open area with fresh air and call 911 or the applicable safety phone number. If oxygen is available on site and the victim is breathing, administer 100-percent oxygen using a tight-fitting mask.
If the victim has stopped breathing, perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation ONLY if you are trained on doing so for carbon monoxide victims. If you are not specifically trained, you could expose yourself to potentially fatal levels of carbon monoxide by performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
According to Occupational Health & Safety magazine, carbon monoxide is responsible for the deaths of some workers each year, often in winter when fuel-burning tools and other equipment are used in spaces that lack sufficient ventilation. Examples of equipment that could produce carbon monoxide include:
- Portable generators
- Space heaters
- Gas-powered tools and compressors
- Welding equipment
- Boilers and furnaces
- Gas-powered forklifts
- Cars and trucks
Employers can reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning by ensuring there is sufficient ventilation, by maintaining equipment properly, by eliminating the use of gasoline-powered equipment indoors or in partially enclosed places, and by installing carbon monoxide detectors wherever a hazard might exist, or by providing wearable carbon monoxide monitors with audible alarms. The use of gas-powered appliances should be prohibited in enclosed areas without proper ventilation.
Workers can help by reporting any conditions to management that could lead to the accumulation of carbon monoxide. Promptly report any dizziness, drowsiness or nausea and tell your employer and your doctor right away if you have been exposed to carbon monoxide.
Workersâ€™ Compensation Claims
You should file an incident report with your employer as soon as possible, and report all of the injured body parts. If you had previously given your employer notice of the accident, please indicate the name of the person you informed and the date of the conversation. Ask your employer to file a claim with its insurance company, and get the insurance information in order to expedite your claim.
Some common workplace injuries are slip and falls, lifting injuries, construction accidents, work-related motor vehicle accidents, and repetitive stress injuries. If you went to the hospital following your work-related injury, you should request your full hospital records. The discharge paperwork given to you by the hospital is not sufficient.
After you have filed a Workersâ€™ Compensation claim, the insurance company will either accept or deny your claim. If the insurance company denies your claim, the case will be set for trial before a Workersâ€™ Compensation Law Judge. During the period of time when the parties are litigating whether your claim is a compensable one, you should continue to treat with your doctors. If a decision is made in your favor, you can be compensated for your lost time and the insurance company will pay for your medical treatment.
The New York Workersâ€™ Compensation Board has implemented virtual hearings, which allow injured workers and attorneys to attend hearings online for claims in New York City and the surrounding boroughs. If you have a computer or a smartphone and access to internet, you no longer have to attend your hearings in person. Virtual hearings greatly reduce the amount of time attorneys spend traveling to hearing locations, giving us more time to focus on cases. We encourage clients to appear virtually from our office as this allows the attorneys and clients to have an in-depth conversation and review of their cases both before and after the hearings.