Beware, your job may leave you breathless

If you are one of the many young people who recently joined the work force of Nebraska, you may still be in the process of discovering the hazards inherent to the industry you chose. Regardless of whether you took on a summer job or aim to make this your career, without proper safety training, your life may be on the line. Remember, even if you are a rookie, you have a right to be safe.

If construction is your chosen industry, you may not realize that, along with the obvious hazards like falls from heights or being struck by heavy objects, there are some hidden dangers that can be deadly -- even 10 or 20 years from now. Prevention is always better than seeking a cure, and nowhere more so than in the construction industry.

Hidden hazards

Did you know of the hazards posed by dust? Even if you are not the person creating it, being in the vicinity of activities that create dust can be dangerous. Harmless as it might appear, the dust from certain materials can accumulate in your lungs over time. Here are two deadly diseases that can result from certain types of dust exposure:

  • Mesothelioma-- This is a type of cancer of the lungs that is linked to exposure to asbestos dust. The use of asbestos was prevalent in the construction industry for many years, but in the 1970s it became a prohibited product in many states. However, working on older buildings often expose employees to asbestos that is still present. The high rate of cancer-related deaths among rescue workers in the years following the World Trade Center attacks on 9/11 underscored the dangers of asbestos.
  • Silicosis-- The source of the dust that can cause this deadly lung disease is concrete. Grinding, crushing, cutting or drilling any concrete-related products such as brick, stone and more creates microscopic particles that contain crystalline silica. Inhalation of these particles through the nose or mouth can cause accumulation in the lungs. Other lung diseases that silica dust can cause include chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, kidney disease and lung cancer.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has strict rules related to the permissible limits of these hazardous types of dust in workplaces, as well as the required personal protective equipment. However, many employers fail to comply with these safety regulations -- to the detriment of employees who may suffer the consequences many years later. Seeking medical attention at the first signs of lung problems may be wise because proving it to be work related may be difficult if workers' compensation benefits claims are filed years later.

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