Workers’ Compensation for Respiratory Diseases

Did you know that the average respiration rate for an adult at rest is 10 to 12 breaths per minute? That’s around 17,280 breaths per day—and it’s not just air we’re breathing in. In their everyday lives and errands, most people inhale foreign substances, like fumes from household cleaning supplies or secondhand cigarette smoke, along with the air they take into their lungs. In minimal amounts, these types of unintentionally inhaled substances do not generally lead to serious lung damage.

On the other hand, when someone is frequently exposed to certain substances, or exposed in high amounts over a short period of time, they have a greater risk of developing respiratory illnesses. This means that workers in certain industries are particularly at risk.

Who is at Risk of Occupational Lung Diseases?

In any type of work environment, employees can be exposed to fumes, chemicals, or other dangerous substances. For example, a secretary in an office might inhale dust while her building is under renovation, or a fast food restaurant employee could frequently be exposed to the smell of cleaning supplies from the bathroom. However, there are some specific professions that come with a high risk of lung damage:

  • Construction workers
  • Mechanics
  • Farmers
  • Miners
  • Welders
  • Housekeepers
  • People who work with materials like cotton, hemp, flax, or nylon fibers

Since these professions involve an array of materials, the health concerns linked with each occupation vary. Overall, though, some common occupational lung issues include:

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Pneumoconiosis, which occurs when inhaled mineral dust causes scarring to the lungs
  • Coal workers pneumoconiosis, or black lung disease
  • Lung cancer, including mesothelioma caused by inhaling asbestos
  • Asthma
  • Byssinosis, or brown lung, which is caused by the inhalation of cotton fiber

Lung conditions like these can lead to breathing difficulties, chest pain or tightness, and frequent coughing. The symptoms can be mild and may only affect people during strenuous activities. Or they can become severe enough to impede everyday life. Some people may eventually require breathing aids or need a lung transplant. Many more eventually die from lung failure or related complications, like pneumonia.

Workers’ Compensation for Respiratory Diseases

When someone develops a respiratory disease at work, they may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. Like with any accident or injury that qualifies for workers’ compensation, a respiratory condition must be a direct result of employment. For instance, if a worker exercises regularly, does not smoke, and lives an overall health life develops COPD as a result of inhaling toxic chemicals, the damage occurred due to their employment. Someone who is a heavy smoker, on the other hand, would have a harder time earning benefits, as their outside-of-work habits likely played a role.

For people who work in fields like construction or housekeeping, the occupational lung conditions are a constant, even for people who love their jobs. But if they work for a company that has a workers’ compensation plan, they can breathe a little easier and know they will have someone looking out for their health.


The attorneys at Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes represent those involved in car accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and other types of personal injury matters. Our firm is one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Tampa Bay. There are no attorneys’ fees or costs unless we prevail for you. Call our office 24 hours a day at 727-796-8282 or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.

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