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Contending With Cancer in the Construction Industry Part 1

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The construction industry has made considerable strides to protect the health and safety of workers. As recently as December of 2018, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has adjusted its requirements to protect workers against Beryllium, which is often linked with cancer. However, dealing with cancer in the construction industry doesn’t stop at prevention. Contractors must understand which aspects of construction present the greatest risk for workers and also develop a plan for dealing with workers who are diagnosed with cancer.

In this two-part series, the Sarasota construction attorneys at Cotney Construction Law will discuss the many facets of contending with cancer in the construction industry. Contractors have a legal obligation to show compassion to workers with cancer and facilitate any necessary accommodations to allow them to work during treatment. Additionally, contractors must be cognizant if a worker is advised to suspend work at the request of a doctor.

What Types of Cancer Pose a Threat to Construction Professionals?

Although OSHA has taken action to minimize the risk of workers developing cancer on the project site by mandating that contractors are taking precautions to reduce exposure to chemical hazards and toxic substances, it’s up to every individual contractor and construction manager to uphold these regulations. In the construction industry, worker safety and health are of paramount importance, so cutting corners is unacceptable.

All of your workers must be outfitted with the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect them from potentially cancerous substances and the “Threshold Limit Values of Airborne Contaminants for 1970” of the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists must be observed. Common forms of cancer in the construction industry include:

  • Lung Cancer: linked with respirable asbestos and silica. Organic and inorganic compounds commonly found in paints, roofing materials, and diesel exhaust can also increase the likelihood of a worker developing lung cancer.
  • Mesothelioma: a rare form of cancer that attacks the lining of organs located in the chest and abdomen. Like lung cancer, it is linked with exposure to asbestos and treatment options are limited. Projects involving pre-1990s structures put workers at a higher risk of exposure.
  • Melanoma: of the various types of skin cancer, Melanoma causes the most deaths despite being less common than basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. Skin cancer is common in areas with heavy sun exposure, but many wrongly believe that simply covering up is enough to prevent it. This disease, like other forms of cancer, can spread through the inside of the body, too.

Who Is at Risk?

As mentioned above, any worker can be put at risk when exposed to certain substances past the Threshold Limit Values of Airborne Contaminants for 1970 or in any later requirements published by OSHA. Some examples of workers at risk include construction laborers, roofers, drywall installation professionals, tilers, and painters. If an OSHA citation is issued against your project site or you need counsel on dealing with a sick worker, a Sarasota construction attorney can assist you.

To learn more about dealing with cancer in the construction industry, read part two.

If you would like to speak with our Sarasota construction lawyers, please contact us today.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.