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Legal Blog

The Dangers of Maritime Crystalline Silica Exposure

Crystalline silica exposure is a serious safety issue in the U.S. maritime industry.

Anyone who works in a shipyard may have been exposed as a result of abrasive blasting, which is a common surface preparation technique in shipbuilding and repair. Even if you aren’t personally involved in sandblasting, just being around the shipyard could result in unhealthy silica dust exposure.

If you work in the maritime industry and develop symptoms of silicosis, you should consult with a maritime injury lawyer as soon as possible. Depending on the nature of your job, the length of your exposure, and your medical diagnosis, you may be able to recover compensation.

For more information, contact the Krist Law Firm, P.C. today at (281) 283-8500, for a free consultation.

Abrasive Blasting in Shipyards Puts Workers at Risk

When a ship is being built or repaired while at port, surfaces need to be cleaned before welding or painting can begin. Abrasive blasting is still the most common technique, despite the development of safer methods like vapor blasting.

Abrasive blasting uses compressed air to propel sand at high velocity. This removes old paint, rust, dirt, mill scale, and salts ingrained on the piping, steel plates, and structural assemblies of a vessel. The process also releases vast amounts of respirable mineral particles, including crystalline silica.

Although automated abrasive blasting can sometimes be employed, it’s usually up to shipyard workers to manually blast various parts of the ship. Anyone who works in a blast building, dry dock, or even onboard a vessel or a pier in a shipyard may get exposed to crystalline silica.

In addition to the significant health hazards it causes, abrasive blasting is also one of the biggest sources of pollution in shipyards.

Crystalline Silica Causes Cancer and Other Respiratory Illnesses

Crystalline silica is a carcinogen, and long term exposure may cause lung cancer. Breathing in silica dust can also cause silicosis: a debilitating, incurable, and sometimes fatal condition resulting from the development of scar tissue in the lungs. This condition can also contribute to other respiratory illnesses such as tuberculosis.

There can be three types of silicosis diagnosis:

  • Chronic or classic silicosis, which generally occurs after 15 to 20 years of moderate to low exposures to crystalline silica. This is the most common diagnosis, with relatively mild symptoms such as shortness of breath and fatigue. A conclusive diagnosis requires an X-Ray.
  • Accelerated silicosis may present itself after five to 10 years of high exposure to crystalline silica. In addition to shortness of breath and weakness, many patients also show weight loss as a result of the condition.
  • Acute silicosis can occur after only a few months or years of exposure to extremely high concentrations of crystalline silica. The weight loss, fatigue, and breathing difficulties are extremely debilitating and can even result in death.

To combat the growing number of maritime workers suffering from silicosis, OSHA enacted stricter maritime industry standards for crystalline silica exposure in 2018. Specifically, if any employee is exposed to more than 25 micrograms of silica dust per cubic meter of air over an eight hour day, the employer must take steps to protect its workers.

Get Help from a Houston Maritime Lawyer Today

The absence of taking precautionary measures against silica exposure at work can be evidence of employer negligence, and if you become sick, you deserve to know all your options. In the maritime industry, several federal statutes regulate how injured workers are compensated. We can walk you through the process, advise you on your rights, and fight to get everything you deserve.

If you or a loved one is ill because of crystalline silica exposure in a Houston shipyard or port, you should take the matter seriously, and work with an experienced maritime injury lawyer.

Call the Krist Law Firm, P.C. today at (281) 283-8500 for a free, no-risk case consultation.