Like other states in the country, North Carolina has a workers' compensation system that is there to protect this state's workers when they get injured or sick while on the job. When a worker dies because of, for example, cancer related to asbestos exposure at work, then the worker's family can get some financial help through workers' compensation survivor benefits.
A recent study conducted by the Interstitial Lung Disease (ILD) Program at Columbia University Medical Center revealed a link between early signs of lung disease and workplace exposures to vapors, gas, dust and fumes. Interstitial lung disease is a medical term used to describe over 100 types of diseases, characterized by fibrosis in the alveoli of the lungs. ILDs include black lung -- caused by the inhalation of coal mine dust, asbestosis -- an often-fatal asbestos disease affecting the lungs and pulmonary sarcoidosis -- an inflammatory disease often attributed to toxic exposure.
Workers' compensation protections are available in North Carolina for family members of workers killed on the job. A construction accident in a nearby community less than an hour east of the Rowan area recently died after falling 30 feet from a bridge. The man was working on the bridge that is part of the bypass project. He was identified by a construction company as a contractor working on the project. The construction company provided information that the worker was taking a screed apart which is a layer of material such as cement applied to a surface such as a floor. Part of the screed fell of its rail and the worker fell at that point.
There are many ways a person can be exposed to asbestos. We have known about the deadly effects of asbestos exposure for decades, but companies are still found putting their employees at risk for asbestos-related cancer and other diseases. A company and its supervisors were recently indicted for asbestos violations at a plant in Wisconsin.
For some workers in North Carolina, it is necessary to work within a high-risk environment. While it is not always safe for the health and wellbeing for some employees, working within these industries is important for society. Additionally, they can be very rewarding for those working in them. While it is apparent that these positions come with them certain risks for illnesses, employees often do not consider developing a fatal asbestos disease from the work environment.