Carpet layers, hardwood and laminate flooring installers, tile setters and other workers make up the large flooring industry. Unfortunately, many of the tools workers use are dangerous, and many materials are constructed with harmful chemicals and particles that could cause serious neurological issues, movement disorders, asthma and other respiratory problems.
Does your loved one work in the flooring industry and was recently injured or diagnosed with a serious disease? Are you now concerned that years of exposure to dangerous flooring chemical solvents have compromised their health or repetitive work has jeopardized their ability to continue doing their job? Your family might be eligible to receive workers compensation and additional payments through a personal injury claim.
Until recently, the flooring industry was unaware that the hazardous materials and dangerous chemicals used in the production of carpeting, tile, woodwork, laminate and linoleum flooring placed manufacturing workers and installers at significant risk of illness or injury through exposure. It was only recently that many flooring installation specialists performing work in Northeast Illinois, especially in the Chicago metropolitan area, were diagnosed with severe neurological problems. These issues included Parkinsonism movement disorder and Parkinson’s disease.
Many diagnosticians now believe that these medical problems are the result of the installer’s routine exposure to the chemicals and fumes released from newly installed flooring material. Some research has shown evidence of the presence of elevated levels of formaldehyde in laminate flooring and other building materials. This dangerous colorless gas is known to trigger respiratory problems like asthma through repeated exposure. Additionally, individuals exposed to products containing formaldehyde are known to have reported issues involving insomnia, headaches, and fatigue.
The emission or “off-gassing" of formaldehyde during the installation process not only affects the installers but other workers on the job site or homeowners/office workers who will remain in the facility afterward. The newest products, recently unwrapped, present the highest risk of ongoing exposure that might take hours, days or weeks to dissipate fully. Unfortunately, installers handling brand-new products are continually exposed to formaldehyde and other dangers chemicals that placed them at the highest risk possible.
If you or a family member was injured while working as a flooring installer, you are likely entitled to workers compensation benefits. Contact the workers compensation attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC for more information and a free review of your legal rights and options.
Not Just Respiratory Aggravation
While ongoing exposure to formaldehyde and other serious chemicals causes respiratory issues, other significant factors are problematic to a flooring installer. These health issues could be long-term especially if the worker develops neurological disorders including Parkinsonism and Parkinson’s disease.
These movement problems and nervous system disorders are progressive to the point where the worker will eventually become completely debilitated. The serious problems tend to develop very gradually over time. At first, the worker might detect a slight tremor in their arms, neck or face that will become significantly stronger in the years ahead and finally become persistent. The most common problems associated with Parkinson’s involve:
- Bradykinesia where muscle movement becomes extremely slow,
- Muscle rigidity
- Loss of balance
- Impaired posture
- Changes in the ability to speak or write
- Automatic movement loss
- Back pain caused by repeatedly lifting heavy materials including boxes of tile and rolls of carpeting and linoleum.
- White Finger Disease caused by vibrating hand tools like those used to cut tile,
- Carpal tunnel syndrome involving damage to the hand and wrist caused by repeated motion, gripping and tools to tightly or repeated bending of the wrist.
It is crucial to not work beyond one’s capacity to lift or transfer heavy objects without assistance. Heavy lifting beyond your capacity could cause significant spinal disc problems. Even individuals who can lift heavy material easily are still at risk of suffering an injury to the spine, ligaments, joints, and tendons.
A Specific Problem of Carpet Laying and Tile Setting
More than 100,000 individuals make a living laying carpeting in the United States. While their numbers account for 0.06% of the total carpet laying workforce in the United States, they represent 6.2% of all claims file with Workmen’s Compensation due to a traumatic knee injury. That number represents more than 100 times the rate of other occupations that injure the knees of their workforce. Additionally, the rate of tile setters is also significantly higher (53 times higher) and flooring installers (46 times higher).
While all these occupations require working on your knees, the injuries occurring to carpet layers is significantly disturbing. Carpet layers use a much-needed effective tool to stretch carpeting and secure it to tack strips in a wall-to-wall installation. To ensure proper installation, the worker must forcibly kick the tool using a knee to tightly stretch the carpeting material before it secured in the place. As a result, the upper portion of the knee and kneecap absorb the continuous blows against the padded striking/stretching tool.
Like most flooring installers, carpet layers spent approximately three-quarters of their time working on their knees and hands. The carpet layer must first install tack strips around the inside perimeter of the room, then cut the carpeting slightly larger than the installation area and then attach the carpeting to one end before stretching the other end to lock the material in place. Carpet layers also use power stretchers to reduce the traumatic impact of continually striking the knee against the end of the stretching tool.
Chicago Installers Must Protect Themselves
Many of the adhesives used in flooring installation contain formaldehyde and other dangerous chemicals. When installers work in a minimally ventilated area, their ongoing exposure could cause significant problems. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), even the lowest levels of chemical exposure can cause significant medical problems including irritation to the eyes, nose, and throat. Any irritation you notice while working should be a clue that its necessary to push fresh air into the room or job site.
The state of Illinois recognizes the elevated risks faced by flooring installers every day. Their efforts to bring awareness, along with those at the CDC, the Bureau of Labor, and other agencies consist of advice and recommendations to contractors to initiate measure to ensure employee health that includes:
- Work in adequately ventilated areas that might require using exhaust fans and opening windows;
- Maintain a humidity level and temperature range that is ideal for minimizing the release of toxic chemicals. It might include using a dehumidifier;
- Provide ample time to allow the flooring materials to “air out" in a well-ventilated area before the installer arrives to minimize “off-gassing" of chemicals so that toxic substances including formaldehyde can escape;
- Select flooring materials constructed with an impermeable facing to stop the passing of toxic fumes, gases, and chemicals.
- Maintain safety on the job site by minimizing repetitive motion and lifting heavy objects that could cause strains and sprains tearing ligaments, tendons, and muscle.
- Avoid risk factors that include awkward body postures, forceful muscle efforts, vibrating hand tools, repetitive work, and external stress that occurs when contacting sharp objects and using dangerous tools.
Only recently have government agencies issued regulations to minimize exposure to dangerous chemicals when installing flooring material. However, there are still serious problems installers face involving exposure when manufacturers mislabel the ingredients in their products.
What Flooring Installers Do
Flooring installers lay various floor coverings in residential and commercial properties including factories, offices, restaurants, shopping malls, airports, train stations, clothing stores, and other buildings. The installer handles various materials including carpeting, cement, glue, adhesives, rubber, cork, vinyl, linoleum, laminate, tile, wood, and others.
- Clean the flooring surface to prepare the installation of material,
- Measure the installation area to calculate the materials required,
- Correct defects on the substrate (subflooring) that might not be level or contain rotting materials,
- Prepare the finished surface by removing irregularities, chipping away imperfections, sanding, scraping, and sweeping the surface,
- Fill all identified cracks in the substrate using cement, grout, plaster or putty to ensure a smooth foundation,
- Safely transport flooring materials to the job site,
- Cut flooring material to the appropriate size,
- Attach or adhere the flooring material to the substrate using nails, adhesive, tack strips, or glue.
Flooring Installer Wages
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2016 data concerning the employment statistics of the previous year, the flooring installers working in the Chicago, Naperville and Arlington Heights metropolitan area make significantly more than installers in other major urban environments.
On average, flooring installers in northeastern Illinois earn $73,230 every year (mean wage), or $35.21 per hour, which is significantly higher than the national averages. See Chart
Are Your Shoulder and Back Injuries Taking a Toll on Your Health?
Typically, flooring materials extremely heavy, and lifting and moving carpeting, tile, wood, or roll laminate can take a toll on the worker’s back over time. Also, carpet layers can develop serious knee problems from a repetitive kicking motion to stretch and secure the carpeting in place on the tack strip.
Many individuals in the flooring industry begin their trade just after high school and work as an installer for ten, twenty or more years. These individuals lay material in our homes, stores, and offices while working with sore, tired shoulders, knees, and backs. Many times, the worker fails to realize that their bodies are wearing out or they have developed a cumulative trauma disorder. It is usually too late to find any comfort from the ongoing pain once the worker is diagnosed with a serious tendon, joint, ligament or muscle injury that developed slowly over time.
Reported Flooring Installer Deaths
According to statistics maintained by the U.S. Department of Labor, there were many reported fatalities in 2017 involving construction workers. A few of these involving floor and flooring material include:
- Case 1: Lanett, Alabama – An employee lost their life after falling through an unsupported subflooring. During the late morning hours of February 14, 2017, coworkers on a construction site removed portions of maple flooring from the wooden substructure before the worker fell through the floor after it collapsed. The employee dropped nearly 40 feet and died after hitting the ground.
- Case 2: Bethlehem, Pennsylvania – Just after noon on January 6, 2017, an employee was killed after suffering multiple blood force trauma injuries to the head. The worker walked across a concrete floor onto a plywood covering over a basement stairway opening covered with a fiberboard sheet that “was not secured." The worker fell through the opening and hit the basement concrete floor below. It was determined that trauma injuries to the head caused his death.
- Case 3: New Orleans, Louisiana – During midmorning on February 2, 2017, a worker was killed after striking his head and shoulders after falling through a hole in the floor.
What to Do?
So, what steps can be taken to prevent serious back, hip, knee, neck and shoulder injuries before the damage wreaks havoc on the worker’s ability to maintain their employment? First, it is the responsibility of the supervisor, foremen, and worker to understand that developing a cumulative trauma disorder is a real consequence of the job that might compromise the installer’s health.
Next, the industry needs to educate and train workers to raise awareness that even the most physically fit employees can suffer serious shoulder and back problems that affect unprotected spinal column vertebrae, tendons, ligaments, and joints. Awareness requires action. Becoming more aware must include any needed changes to substantial work practices that are known to prevent injuries by using effective equipment to assist in transporting heavy materials onto the job site and tools that minimize injuries. There are various tools designed to reduce back and shoulder strains that require less stressful physical exertion. Using the best tools over time can maximize an employee’s health and reduce worker’s compensation claims.
Finally, it is crucial to understand from the installer’s perspective that a simple shoulder or knee injury could end their career. These individuals who have spent their lifetime working in a needed occupation at a good wage are left with the only option of working at minimum wage at a job that requires less physicality. From this viewpoint, it makes better sense to ensure workers are protected at the job site and taught how to avoid any action or method that could jeopardize their health and ruin their career.
Are You Eligible to Receive Financial Compensation?
According to the Illinois State law, you have the legal right to work in a safe environment that protects your health over the years. As a trained flooring installation specialist, you have performed your duties believing that the products you installed were safe to work with that produced minimal or no risk at all. However, if you were identified as having a serious medical condition, what do you do now?
According to the Illinois civil tort law, you have the legal right to seek financial compensation to recover your damages. The monetary recovery should cover your injuries to ensure that the financial support you receive is adequate for your ongoing medical treatments and continuing disability.
Did exposure to toxic chemicals, repetitive disorder, or cumulative trauma claim the life of your loved one? Did the doctor say that the medical issue that claimed their life was the result of their job? If so, you might be eligible to receive financial compensation to recover your loss. Our skilled law firm represents injured victims with work-related injuries and families facing a wrongful death. Our clients include flooring installers who were injured by dangerous products.
Unfortunately, many injured workers face life with receiving benefits only from worker’s compensation claim. When they found that their illness or injuries were significantly more than first thought and cost of treatment is more than the benefits provide, what can they do? Many believe they are left with living a life of desperation.
Fortunately, our attorneys ensure our clients receive the compensation they deserve. Our legal team finds other avenues of compensation to ensure our clients receive sufficient funds that will not jeopardize their previous standard of living.
Contact A Flooring Installer Workers Compensation & Injury Law Firm
If you, or your loved one, experienced the obvious signs and symptoms of long-term exposure to chemicals or suffered injuries from a work-related incident, hiring an attorney can help. The Chicago Work Injury Attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers (888-424-5757) are here to help. We have assisted many of our clients in filing for Worker’s Compensation and found additional parties that are also financially responsible for their damages to obtain more funds.
You are not required to make any upfront payment to receive immediate legal services. This agreement means your legal fees are postponed until your attorneys have negotiated an out of court settlement on your behalf or have successfully resolved your recompense case in a court of law. Our “No Win/No Fee" Guarantee means you owe us nothing if we cannot get the money you deserve!