Workplace Medical Mystery: What Is Making This Roofer Sick?Posted on by
Ray drove to his work site on Monday morning, sipping coffee along the way. Spring was almost over, and everything was in full bloom. He was thankful for a cloudy day and cranked up the air conditioning, he knew he would start sweating once he got to work.
Today Ray and his crew were working on a rubber roofing membrane installation. Ray parked and walked over to where the crew was setting up. Everyone was sharing stories from the weekend, but Ray hadn’t left the house since his kids came home from school sick on Friday. Ray wore his usual attire, a t-shirt, work pants, and boots, and the company provided a respirator and cotton gloves. The crew got to work removing the old insulation. The roof was then sprayed with foam and Ray waited for a few minutes before rolling the rubber roof membrane onto the foam. His coworkers pushed the membrane down with weighted rollers and brooms.
As the day went on, the clouds lifted and somehow it felt even more humid. Ray took frequent breaks to combat the heat while on the roof, occasionally removing his respirator and gloves temporarily to cool off. During these breaks he also drank water from the large company-provided water jug. Between coughs, one of his coworkers complained about his allergies and the pollen.
At lunchtime, Ray grabbed his food from his car and joined the crew in a shady spot. He started to wonder if the pollen was causing his headache or if he caught a cold from his kids. He grabbed more water and hoped a smoke break would help. At the end of the day, Ray felt worse: his nose felt stuffy, he was coughing and wheezing, and his chest felt tight. He figured a hot shower and a good night’s sleep would help.
The next day, one of the crew members had called in sick and Ray worried about the long shift ahead. Soon, he started feeling sick again and found it hard to breath in the humid air. By the end of the day, he decided to make a medical appointment but his doctor couldn’t find anything wrong. What is causing Ray’s symptoms?
Check back on Friday for the next installment of Workplace Medical Mysteries to see what is making Ray sick. Think you know? Tell us what you think it is in the comment section below.
Emily Kirby, BPH, is a Health Communication Specialist in the NIOSH Office of Communication and Research to Practice.
Catherine C. Beaucham, PhD, CIH, is an Industrial Hygienist in the NIOSH Division of Surveillance, Hazard Evaluations, and Field Studies.
This blog is part of the NIOSH Workplace Medical Mystery Series. The names and certain personal details of the characters are fictitious and do not represent an actual person or persons.