Nearly every occupation carries different risks to workers. Employees can suffer on-the-job injuries resulting from falls, vehicle collisions, muscle strain, repetitive stress and toxic exposure.
While different occupations might face different toxic materials, there are three substances that can lead to devastating conditions and serious consequences. Workers who are exposed to these substances risk conditions that could be hazardous to their entire family.
- Asbestos: Now a known carcinogen, asbestos has been used for hundreds of years in products when it was necessary to protect consumers and workers from the threat of fire and extreme heat. Unfortunately, as the materials deteriorated, asbestos fibers became airborne and could be inhaled or ingested by those in the immediate proximity. Exposure to asbestos can lead to numerous disorders such as mesothelioma, asbestosis and lung cancer.
- Silica: Workers in numerous industries are exposed to silica dust on nearly every shift. From the manufacture of engineered stone countertops and pottery to concrete and glass, as the materials are cut, drilled or ground, silica dust becomes airborne to be breathed or swallowed by workers. Exposure to crystalline silica can lead to inflammation and scarring of the lungs. Workers suffering from silicosis might find it hard to take in oxygen and could struggle with coughing, fatigue, shortness of breath and chest pain.
- Benzene: A product used in numerous manufacturing processes, benzene is a common ingredient for producing detergents, drugs, rubber and plastic. Outside of workers in these factories, other occupations at risk for benzene exposure are steel workers, firefighters, mechanics and service-station workers. Exposure to benzene can be cancer-causing in humans and is a risk-factor in the development of leukemia.
Workers in at-risk occupations should take special care to protect themselves with safety gear on every shift. Additionally, the workplace has a duty to supply this gear, adequate training and washing stations to ensure the workers do not take the dangerous chemicals out of the workplace and create secondary exposure events for friends and loved ones.