Roof workers in California and elsewhere who apply hot asphalt to roofs are exposed to multiple occupational illnesses. The fumes produced during the application process can irritate the skin, eyes, throat and nose, and cause headache, nausea, drowsiness and fatigue. Affected roofers might have questions about their eligibility for workers’ compensation, especially if they develop progressive lung diseases that might only become evident after long-term exposure.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, along with other authorities, are working to find ways to reduce the level of exposure to asphalt fumes. The mentioned effects are mostly transient and mild, but studies have indicated the possibility that long-term exposure could increase the risk of lung cancer. However, further studies are underway to determine whether lung damage is linked to the asphalt fumes or perhaps due to smoking or exposure to asbestos or coal tar instead.
Because of the significant health risks caused by hot asphalt fumes, NIOSH says their endeavors to establish control measures to limit exposure makes sense. Safety authorities say using respirators as protection would be the last resort. The reason for this is the fact that respirator use opens up a list of other safety hazards and a different set of safety standards with which to comply.
The California workers’ compensation insurance program covers the medical expenses and lost wages of injured workers. However, when health damage occurs over time, the fact that there is no definite date of an injury might complicate the claims process. This is where the skills of an experienced workers’ compensation attorney can be invaluable. A lawyer can navigate the claims process and work to obtain the maximum applicable benefits for the affected worker.