According to a report from the Los Angeles Times, dozens of workers who cut countertops in Southern California have developed a severe, incurable disease called silicosis. Silicosis is a progressive lung disease caused by inhaling silica dust, leading to inflammation and scarring of the lung tissue and resulting in symptoms such as shortness of breath, cough, and fatigue. Here, our Fresno workers’ compensation attorney explains what we know about the safety hazard and highlights your rights/options if you develop a serious illness on your job in California.
Report: Countertop Cutters Developed Silicosis at High Rates
The Los Angeles Times reports that countertop workers—who are disproportionately relatively young Latino men—are developing silicosis at high rates. Sadly, silicosis is a progressive lung disease that can potentially be fatal. Despite some efforts to dampen the toxic dust, many workers lack adequate protection. California is now drafting emergency rules to protect these workers. Beyond that, Los Angeles County is considering a ban on the sale and installation of silica-engineered stone. Here are some preliminary findings from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH):
- Workers who cut and finish countertops face a high silicosis risk;
- There have been 70 cases identified thus far in California; and
- Ten workplace fatalities have been linked to countertop-related silicosis.
What to Do if You Have Developed an Occupational Disease in California
Did you or your loved one develop an occupational disease in California? It is imperative that you know the steps to take to protect your health, safety, and legal rights. In California, the workers’ compensation system provides benefits for occupational diseases as long as an employee can establish that their illness is job-related. Here are key things to do:
- Seek Medical Attention: Your health should always be your priority. If you suspect you have an occupational disease, promptly consult a healthcare professional. Proper diagnosis and treatment are essential to prevent further harm and document your condition.
- Report the Illness to Your Employer: To put yourself in the best position to bring a claim, it is imperative that you report your occupational disease to your employer. The illness should be reported as soon as you suspect a work-related connection.
- File for Workers’ Comp Benefits: To seek compensation for medical bills and lost wages for an occupational disease, you should file a workers’ compensation claim. Be sure to obtain a DWC-1 form from your employer or from the DWC.
Understanding the Statute of Limitations for Occupational Disease Claims
The statute of limitations matters. In California, the workers’ comp statute of limitations for an occupational disease—which is also known as a cumulative trauma injury—is one year. The one-year statute of limitations clock starts running as of the later of the following:
- The date the employee knew or should have known that their occupational disease was caused by their employment; or
- The date of the last employment that contributed to the occupational disease.
Joseph C. Yrulegui is a worker’s compensation attorney committed to providing top-tier legal representation to clients in Fresno and throughout the surrounding region. If you or your loved one developed an occupational disease related to your workplace, please do not hesitate to contact Yrulegui for a comprehensive, confidential, and no-obligation consultation.