The health risks that passive smokers face may be far worse and much more unexpected than the illnesses that smokers suffer. Despite common belief, passive smoking is even more dangerous than mainstream smoking. The fumes that are emitted from the end of a cigarette contain chemicals that are concentrated cancer-causing agents and are actually worse than the chemicals that the smoker inhales. The filter at the butt of the cigarette protects the smoker from these chemicals; but the second-hand smoke involves extremely harmful, unfiltered substances. Thus, people who have never smoked, but are constantly around people who smoke, may be at a higher risk of suffering smoke related illnesses than the smokers themselves.
Passive smoking, or second hand smoking, occurs when a person breathes in Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS). ETS is a mixture of the smoke emitted from the burning end of the cigarette and the smoke that the smoker exhales. ETS has also been recognized as a known source of cancer by the United States Environmental Protection Agency. The health effects of second hand smoking can be severe as thousands of harmful substances are detected in ETS.
Some mild effects of second hand smoking include chronic coughing, excessive phlegm, watery eyes, skin ailments, and a persistent sore throat. However, ETS can lead to much more severe illnesses, like cancer, respiratory diseases, heart diseases, circulation problems, and more.
When it comes to ETS in the workplace, it is the employer’s responsibility to ensure the safety of each and every employee, including those who are at risk of second hand smoke from those who do smoke cigarettes. While smoking is a choice, second hand smoking isn’t, except in the person’s effort to stay away from it. Thus, employers must enforce some rules and limitations to protect the non-smokers who might face higher health risks without even being aware of it.
Is Smoking Permitted in Savannah, Georgia Workplaces?
Georgia law prohibits employees from smoking cigarettes in an enclosed workplace. However, some enclosed workplaces, like bars, restaurants, and clubs are exceptions to this rule. In indoor work areas, an employer can permit smoking in a designated room or in an area where the non-smoking employees aren’t required to enter. This area has to be properly ventilated, and none of the air from this area should return to the non-smoking areas. There are no other specific accommodations that the law requires employers to make for non-smokers.
Can ETS Contribute to Occupational Illnesses in Workers’ Compensation Claims?
An occupational illness is any illness that arises due to the employee’s work related tasks or the environment that the employee works in. To prove that the illness you suffer from is an occupational illness, you must prove that you were exposed to the agent that caused your illness at work and that the agent was directly related to the work that you were assigned. However, smoking isn’t a part of your job, and neither is second hand smoking.
This means that although you may have been exposed to ETS in your work environment, and you may have suffered from a major illness because of it, it is difficult to establish ETS exposure as an occupational illness, since it does not have a direct relation with the occupation itself.
However, waiters and bartenders who work in restaurants and bars which permit smoking in a common area, can be exposed to ETS on a daily basis, and as a part of their occupation. So, depending on your job, it may actually be possible for you to prove that the health effects of ETS in the workplace qualify as an occupational illness.
Filing a Workers’ Compensation Claim for ETS Illness in Savannah, Georgia.
Although it is difficult to prove exposure to ETS as an occupational illness, it is not impossible to receive workers’ compensation benefits for such a condition. People now have a wider understanding of the health hazards of exposure to ETS and the severe illnesses that it can cause. The chances of collecting workers’ compensation for illnesses caused by second hand smoke are better now than they were in the past.
Any illness that is caused by continuous, long-term exposure to second hand smoke could be considered to be a work-related injury. Further, a room contaminated with hazardous smoke is not an appropriate environment to work in. The employer has a moral responsibility towards the workers to make the workplace a safe and hazard-free environment.
You can receive workers’ compensation benefits if your illness is determined to be work-related, prevents you from working, and/or requires medical treatment. If you can work, but the exposure to ETS is slowly affecting your health and interfering with your work, then your employer can either make accommodations to prevent any further illness or provide medical benefits for any required treatment. Nevertheless, if the environment that you are working in is making you sick, then you should be able to file a claim for workers’ compensation.
Contact the Bader Law Firm to Learn More About ETS in Workers’ Compensation Claims
In Savannah, Georgia, if you are a non-smoker and have been exposed to second hand smoke by the smokers in your workplace, then you may be entitled to receive workers’ compensation benefits. Illnesses caused due to ETS are highly unexpected and confusing, since the person suffering might not have smoked a cigarette their entire life. However, the growing understanding of the hazards of exposure to ETS has made it easier for Savannah employees to fall back on the workers’ compensation insurance in case of any ETS related illness.
If you have been harmed by the environmental effects of tobacco use at your workplace and wish to claim workers’ compensation benefits, you will need to prove that your illness was caused by the environment that you work in. It can be difficult to find the required evidence and legal help will make the process easier. Contact the workers’ compensation attorneys at the Bader Law Firm to learn more and get the help that you need.