In communities where coal mining operations exist, mining work can often be the best available career for those hoping to support themselves or a family. Blue-collar workers can find a living wage even in entry-level positions across the mining industry, and there are often opportunities for advancement for those who work hard.

Unfortunately, bringing coal out of the earth isn’t a risk-free career. On the contrary, it is highly dangerous. Many people think of the danger of cave-ins and machinery accidents when they think about the risks on the job for coal miners. Those risks are very real, but they likely affect fewer workers than slower, more insidious career risks, like lifelong and potentially deadly health conditions caused by exposure to coal dust.

Severe respiratory conditions can result from working with coal

Inhaling coal dust over many years can cause significant damage to the lungs and a number of medical conditions. Pneumoconiosis is a common condition among coal minors where coal dust has caused scars to develop inside the lungs. Coal Worker’s Pneumoconiosis is also known as black lung. It can cause difficulty breathing that gets worse over time.

Coal miners can also develop Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), a lung condition that gets worse over time, gradually reducing the volume of air someone can inhale and exhale. Neither of these conditions has a known cure, and they can require expensive treatments, such as oxygen delivery for patients. They often also result in someone being unable to work or even care for themselves in more serious or progressed cases.

Workers’ compensation applies to illnesses, not just injuries

In some cases, it can be quite difficult to connect the symptoms of a medical condition with a career, which is one reason that people may not understand their right to illness-related protections through Alabama workers’ compensation.

With coal-related illnesses such as COPD, the connection between the medical condition and the individual career is obvious. There are even diagnostic tests that can tie the condition to coal dust in some cases.

Even if you no longer work for the same company, you likely have rights to workers’ compensation benefits for your work-related illness depending on the circumstances and diagnosis you have received.