From childhood, you may remember Saturday mornings when you helped your mother clean house. Perhaps your favorite chore was dusting the furniture. It was easy and quick, and there was something nice about wiping away the fine dust and leaving a polished surface. Dust was innocent, and it never occurred to you to be afraid of it.
Things are different now that you are an adult. The dust you deal with on the job is not only dangerous, but it may also be deadly. It is important to know how to handle dust in the workplace and what your options are if you suffer an illness related to particles you may have inhaled.
Dust in the workplace is not something you deal with using a cloth and a can of furniture polish. Depending on the industry in which you work, the dust you encounter may contain toxins, mold or other substances that can lead to serious illnesses, including cancer and autoimmune complications. At the very least, the dust can make your life miserable if you already suffer with upper respiratory problems.
Your lungs are meant for oxygen. The best way to keep them healthy is to ensure nothing else enters your lungs. However, if you work around paints or chemicals, construction debris such as brick or concrete, asbestos products or other potential inhalants, you would be wise to take precautions to protect yourself in the following ways:
- Pay attention to warnings and safety instructions provided by material manufacturers, employers and safety advocates.
- Use approved methods for cleaning dust to prevent its spread.
- Remove contaminated clothing and clean yourself, even showering if possible, before you leave work for the day.
- Keep items that may produce toxic dust separated and sealed from work areas.
- Limit the amount of time and the number of people exposed to dust throughout the workday.
Depending on your industry, you may need appropriate protective gear, such as dust-filtration masks, eye protection and long-sleeved clothing. If your employer does not provide these essential barriers between you and dangerous dust particles, you should not be afraid to speak up for your own health and the health of your coworkers. Additionally, if you discover you are suffering from an illness related to the inhalation of toxic dust, you may wish to reach out to a South Carolina attorney for advice on your options.