Work on the construction and maintenance of tunnels comes with all kinds of risks. That’s true of any underground or underwater operations. One risk that people associate more with scuba diving than tunnel work is depression sickness (DCS).
DCS, which is commonly known to divers as “the bends,” can happen when someone moves too quickly from a high-pressure area to a low-pressure one (for example, when divers surface too fast). When this occurs, gas is released in the body that can block blood flow.
What causes DCS?
Moving too quickly from an area of high pressure to low pressure can produce nitrogen gas bubbles in the body. If outside pressure is released too quickly, the gas is released in the body which can create nitrogen bubbles within tissue and/or blood. These can obstruct blood flow.
Those who work in underwater tunnels use compressed air, which is why they’re also at risk of developing DCS if they don’t properly decompress as they return to the surface. Unfortunately, the decompression tables commonly used for decompression chambers to properly ease workers to the surface have not been updated for over 50 years.
What can happen if someone suffers DCS?
The condition can be extremely painful. In worst-case scenarios, it can cause permanent effects and even be fatal. Symptoms include everything from shortness of breath, joint pain and skin disorders to paralysis, strokes and arterial gas embolism, which is when gas bubbles form in the arteries and block the flow of blood.
If you have suffered DCS while working in a tunnel or you have lost a loved one, it’s crucial to ensure that you get the workers’ compensation benefits to which you’re entitled. It may be wise to seek experienced legal guidance to protect your rights and your workers’ comp claim for yourself and your family.