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Flames aren't the only workplace danger facing firefighters

When it comes to workplace dangers, few workers can say they encounter as many dangers as firefighters do. From flames to dense smoke, falling debris and collapsing floors, firefighters oftentimes find themselves in harm's way and at high risk of potentially suffering an injury as well.

But if you're a regular reader of our blog or are at least familiar with how occupational injuries manifest, then you know that not all workplace injuries happen immediately following an accident. Sometimes they take time to develop, as is the case with occupational diseases, which is something firefighters need to be aware of.

The high risk of asbestos exposure

For decades, asbestos was used in a variety of building materials until we started to realize the hazards of asbestos exposure. Even though many of the products we see today do not contain this hazardous substance, many homes and buildings throughout Pennsylvania still have items and building materials in them that contain products with asbestos. As you can imagine, if one of these locations were to catch fire, a firefighter could easily become exposed to asbestos, therefore putting themselves in danger.

For those who don't know, asbestos fibers that get kicked into the air can cause cancer if inhaled repeatedly over time. But it's not just visible particulates firefighters need to worry about. If exposed to extreme enough temperatures, asbestos can breakdown, turning into toxic particles that can also be inhaled and cause cellular damage.

But the risk of asbestos exposure doesn't stop there. Even if a firefighter wears a respirator mask, the toxic particles may land on their clothing only to be inhaled later if the firefighter isn't extremely careful.

Workers' compensation is available

Cancer caused by asbestos exposure during the course of work can be considered an occupational disease which may qualify an affected firefighter for workers' compensation benefits. Occupational disease claims can present a challenge, however, which may necessitate the need to seek legal counsel from a skilled workers' compensation attorney.

Source: The Department of Emergency Services & Public Protection, "Asbestos and Firefighters," Accessed April 20, 2016

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