Workers in certain high-risk industries are exposed to harmful chemicals and dust on the job daily that could result in them developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or other serious lung problems. Miners, construction workers, cotton manufacturing workers, factory workers, warehouse workers, and custodial staff are especially at risk of developing this life-threatening disease. However, these workers can take steps to limit their exposure to the hazardous substances that can lead to COPD

Seven Steps Workers Should Take to Reduce the Risk of COPD

COPD is a lung condition where the airflow is limited in a person’s airways and includes two lung diseases: emphysema and chronic bronchitis. A person suffering with COPD can experience dramatic limitations in his day-to-day activities, repeated serious lung infections, and life-long expensive medical treatments. However, workers can limit their risk by taking the following steps:

  • Don’t smoke. Workers who also smoke increase their risk of developing COPD significantly because smoking is a major cause of this disease. Employees should not smoke and should limit their exposure to secondary smoke.
  • Limit dust exposure. Workers should limit their exposure to dust by implementing work practices that help with this, such as not working around open containers of dust materials and using high-quality bags for transporting these materials.
  • Vacuum or mop instead of sweeping. Washing or vacuuming floors will result in less dust in the air. In addition, cleaning should be done when fewer employees are around to limit their exposure to dust.
  • Use industrial vacuums. Using an industrial vacuum with a hood or shroud can limit exposure to dust, for example, when construction workers are grinding concrete or mortar.
  • Wash work clothes regularly. Work clothes—especially heavy clothing—can absorb dust and become a source of dust exposure. It is important to clean work clothes regularly and choose synthetic fabrics that are less likely to contaminate clothing. 
  • Wear a respiratory mask. Employees exposed to harmful dust or chemicals should wear a respiratory mask when working around these substances. Employers need to insure proper ventilation, since it can be hard to breathe when using a respirator mask.
  • Get breathing tests. Workers should get yearly spirometry tests to determine if their lung functions are diminishing and should be monitored closely by their doctors for changes in their lungs.

Even if you take these steps, you could still develop COPD and need to take time off work when you are experiencing exacerbations of this disease—if you can continue to work. Fortunately, you may be entitled to compensation under New Jersey’s workers’ compensation. I have been helping workers like you for over 30 years. Call me at 877-360-0183 to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.

Manfred Ricciardelli
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Morristown Workers' Compensation Lawyer