Any of the 160,000-plus shipyard workers in the USA could face high risks of occupational illness, such as lung cancers. These sicknesses could constitute serious injuries in the eyes of the law.

Of course, work in the shipyards is also dangerous in other ways. Falls, chemical exposure and heavy machinery accidents could all lead to complicated worker’s compensation claims. Those dangers do not diminish the threat of long-term exposure, however.

Increased risks

According to the CDC, shipyard workers face nearly double the rate of non-fatal injuries and illnesses when compared to the general working population. This specialization stands out even among other dangerous maritime workplaces.

Respiratory illnesses are of special concern. For example, welders face high rates of lung and related cancers.

Early warnings

Cancers tend to develop in correlation with a long history of exposure to toxic or irritating substances. However, there could be more immediate problems.

As outlined by the Mayo Clinic, occupational asthma is a condition characterized by exposure to workplace irritants. Some of the possible warning signs for it are:

  • A condition that gets worse during consecutive workdays and gets better over breaks
  • Long term, cold- or allergy-like issues
  • Similar symptoms to normal asthma attacks

This is not a condition anyone should take lightly. In some cases, it is an indication that the workplace has an unacceptable level of environmental contamination. Occupational asthma could potentially lead to permanent lung damage or other severe consequences.

There is no doubt that shipyard workers are tough. However, the numbers suggest that this working environment is sometimes more hostile than any person could endure. That risk makes one thing even more clear: Those who dedicate their lives to this dangerous profession deserve the full protection of the workers’ compensation program.