What are Welding Rods?
Welding is the process by which two pieces of metal are joined. This can be done in several ways, including by melting the pieces of metal together using a filler material, called a "consumable." Welding rods are a common welding consumable.
The process of rod welding creates a fume that's made up of the elements of the metal being welded. These elements, especially manganese, a common element of steel and most welding materials, including welding rods, make the fume extremely toxic. The manganese in the welding fume may cause brain damage and lead to the development of Parkinsonism, including early onset Parkinson's Disease. Welding rod fumes may also contain significant concentrations of nickel and chromium, which is listed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) as a potential toxin.
What are the Risks Posed by Exposure?
The two most serious risks associated with occupational exposure to welding rod fumes are the development of manganism or manganese poisoning or Parkinson's Disease.
Manganism or "welders disease" is the name given to a combination of symptoms suffered by workers whose brains have been injured by prolonged exposure to manganese fumes. The condition occurs because too much manganese damages the part of the brain that controls body movements.
Symptoms of manganism include:
- Slowed movement
- Decreased hand agility
- Difficulty walking
- Increased irritability
- Poor balance
- Loss of short-term memory
- Slurred speech
- Mood swings
Although some symptoms of manganism can be treated, there is no cure.
Parkinson's Disease is also a serious, incurable motor system disorder that results from the destruction of brain cells that control muscle movement. This type of brain injury can result from the prolonged exposure to toxic levels of manganese in welding fumes.
The primary symptoms of Parkinson's Disease are:
- Tremor or trembling in the hands, arms, legs, jaw, and face
- Stiffness of the arms, legs, and trunk
- Slowness of movement
- Poor balance
The symptoms of Parkinson's worsen as the disease progresses until they interfere with daily activities and the patient is totally dependent on others for care.
Who is At Risk of Being Injured by Welding Rod Fumes?
Workers exposed to welding rod fumes are at risk of developing manganese poisoning, Parkinson's Disease, or other conditions associated with inhaling toxic welding fumes. A worker is "at risk" if he works in a job that increases his risk of developing a work-related illness.
Workers who are most at risk of being injured by welding rod fumes include:
- Metal workers
- Pipe fitters
- Electrical workers
- Railroad workers
- Glass manufacturers
What About Welding Rod Lawsuits?
In 2003, an Illinois jury awarded $1 million to a welder who developed Parkinson's Disease from years of breathing manganese welding rod fumes. The jury held the welding rod manufacturers responsible for failing to warn the welder about the deadly risks of toxic welding fumes.
Other welders are suing, claiming that welding rod manufacturers failed to inform them of the about serious health risks associated with exposure to welding rod fumes.
Who Can File a Welding Rod Lawsuit?
Anyone who has suffered ill health effects through prolonged exposure to welding rod fumes can file a welding rod lawsuit. A close family member can file suit if the worker has passed away, as can the executor of the worker's estate.
How Do I File a Welding Rod Claim?
If you want to file a lawsuit, you should find a lawyer as soon as possible. This is very important because each state has a time limit, called a statute of limitations, restricting how long you have to file your welding rod claim. The time limit varies from state to state. But if you wait too long, you may be barred from taking legal action.
You should look for a lawyer who is experienced in dealing with welding rod lawsuits. You'll want someone with proven experience in the field, someone who will have the resources and contacts to deal with your case quickly and efficiently. An experienced lawyer will be able to advise you about your options, including whether you should file an individual lawsuit or opt for a class action. Your lawyer may be able to advise you about your chances of success and give you an idea of how much compensation you can reasonably hope to recover.
Once you find a lawyer, you should make an appointment to discuss your options. You'll need to provide details about where and when you were exposed to welding rod fumes so that your lawyer can identify the appropriate employer or manufacturers to name in your lawsuit.
The more information you provide your lawyer, the better chance he or she will have of preparing a solid silicosis case for you. As your case develops, your lawyer will be able to advise you about accepting an out-of-court settlement, if one is offered, or if you should go to trial.
Who Will I Sue?
Most likely, you'll sue your employer under your state's workers' compensation laws. In this type of lawsuit, you'll have to prove that your employer negligently allowed you to be exposed to welding rod fumes by:
- Failing to advise you of the dangers of welding rod exposure
- Failing to provide you with appropriate and effective safety equipment and the training to use it properly, or
- Providing an unsafe work environment
If you sue your employer, you'll be limited to a workers' compensation claim. But this can lead to a considerable amount of money, especially if your welding rod disease forced you to retire.
You aren't limited to suing your employer, though. You may be able to sue the companies who made and supplied the welding rods under a theory of product liability. In this type of lawsuit, you'll claim that the welding rods posed an unreasonable danger and that your exposure to welding rod fumes led to your illness. You may also have a claim against the companies that made the safety equipment you used under a theory that the safety equipment was defective and its failure led to your illness.
Your case may present other claims, as well. Your attorney will be in the best position to assess your case and determine which theory or theories apply to you.