Benzene Exposure - Seamen and Harborworkers
Jones Act seaman and US harborworkers are regularly exposed to benzene and similar volatile compounds. People that are regularly exposed can get various diseases, especially blood cancers like leukemia and other progressive cancers. A severe exposure can also result in immediate injuriies.
How does benzene exposure happen?Benzene is a common ingredient in many industrial chemicals, including chemicals related to nylon, rubber, lubricant, machine oil, lubricants, detergents, dyes, pesticides and paint. Painters, especially working in a confined area, are commonly exposed. For workers that deal with shipboard cargo, shipments that include wood pulp and paper chemicals are associated with benzene exposure, as are all petroleum products, pesticides and the products that are used to clean tanks and leaks. Many workers are not provided and required to use proper safety equipment, which makes exposure even more severe and deadly. Benzene starts as a clear or yellowish liquid, but it evaporates easily, so most exposure occurs because the gas is inhaled. Fires can also release significant amounts of benzene, and it can also be present in drinking water.
What are the symptoms of benzene exposure?Immediate symptoms can include drowsiness, rapid or irregular heartbeat, nosebleeds, rashes and burns, and severe cases can cause unconsciousness, bleeding from the eyes or ears and other symptoms. Symptoms, however, can develop over years of exposure, and can include chronic illness and blood cancers such as chronic lymphocytic leukemia, Acute Myeloid Leukemia, Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia and non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. If your jobsite has placed you in a position to be exposed and you have a chronic disease - contact a lawyer immediately - the science and medical proof is developing day to day.
Why are Seaman and Harborworkers different?Most workers are covered by worker's compensation insurance. These programs can be helpful, but they are much more limited in what they cover than the programs that apply to Jones Act seaman (workers in navigation on navigable waters) or longshoreman and harborworkers (workers providing services to vessels in navigation, including loading and offloading). Workers under workman's compensation schemes can only receive the benefits defined in the statute. Jones Act seaman, however, are entitled to 'maintenance and cure', which means that the employer must pay for their expenses and medical services until the worker is on his feet again. This obligation can be very, very expensive for an employer. Longshoreman and harborworkers are paid at a higher rate for lost income than most workers compensation employees, and they are additionally entitled to make a claim for permanent partial disability. The question of what law covers an employee can make a huge difference in how much the employee can receive in compensation if injured through chemical exposure. For this reason, it absolutely essential to hire an attorney with expertise in Jones Act and maritime employee issues.