It's not an issue that's often addressed, but secondhand cigarette smoke can be just as hazardous to workers as other toxic exposures, such as silica and asbestos. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report says that secondhand tobacco smoke is often linked to heart disease, lung cancer, stroke, and other health complications.
Most states, including Iowa, have at least a comprehensive smoking ban in place that applies to bars, restaurants, and many other public places, according to the American Lung Association. However, smoking bans aren't always fully enforced on many job sites.
Who is the most at risk of secondhand smoke exposure?
A recent study from the CDC concluded that nearly one in five workers across several industries are exposed to secondhand smoke on the job. The study pulled data from the 2015 National Health Interview Survey Occupational Health Supplement, which investigated the toxic chemical hazards workers are exposed to on the job. According to the data:
- Nearly 20 percent of nonsmoking workers reported exposure to secondhand smoke on the job within the last 12 months
- More than 10 percent of participants said they were exposed to secondhand smoke at least twice per week
- Construction workers were at the highest risk — with more than 34 percent of those in the industry exposed to secondhand smoke
- Over 30 percent of mining workers and transportation industry workers are also exposed to secondhand smoke
- Out of 10.2 million construction workers, more than 35 percent admitted to using some type of tobacco
- More than 8 percent of construction workers admitted to using cigars, cigarillos, pipes, or hookahs
- More than 7 percent used more than one tobacco product
Can I collect workers' compensation due to an illness caused by secondhand smoke on the job?
If you have sustained any type of injury, illness, or adverse health condition on the job, you may be eligible for workers' compensation. Proving that secondhand smoke was the cause of your work-related illness, however, may be difficult. The insurance companies responsible for issuing workers' compensation benefits aren't easily convinced and may be likely to deny your claim if not approached correctly.
That's why workplace injuries and illnesses, especially complex ones involving toxic exposures, should be handled by an experienced workers' compensation attorney who understands how the system works. Attorney Paul McAndrew knows how to advocate for ill or injured workers and get results. He knows how to ensure that your claim is done correctly and how to negotiate with insurance companies for a fair settlement.
To get started, contact Paul McAndrew Law Firm, PLLC and schedule your free consultation.