Appeal from the Order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board in case of Clarence A. Wright v. Findlay Refractories and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, No. A-72279.
Raymond F. Keisling, Will & Keisling, for petitioners.
C. Jerome Moschetta, for respondent.
Sandra S. Christianson, Assistant Attorney General, for respondent, Department of Labor and Industry.
Judges Rogers, Blatt and Williams, Jr., sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Rogers.
[ 52 Pa. Commw. Page 210]
Findlay Refractories and Argonaut Insurance Company, Findlay's workmen's compensation insurance carrier, have appealed from a decision of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board affirming a referee's award of benefits to Clarence A. Wright.
The appellants present but one question: "Did the claimant properly establish the existence of a silica hazard at the defendant-employer's plant after July 1, 1973?"
Findlay manufactures refractories, large clay blocks used to line glass furnaces. Wright worked for Findlay for about 23 years at various tasks throughout Findlay's factory. During the last eight years of
[ 52 Pa. Commw. Page 211]
his employment, until September 28, 1973, he worked as a mechanic, repairing machinery both in the factory and in a shop located in another building. After leaving Findlay, Wright filed a claim petition for total disability from silicosis as the result of exposure to silica in his employment with Findlay. After hearings, a referee found that Wright was totally disabled by silicosis as the result of exposure to silica dust in an occupation in which silicosis is a hazard and that the disability resulted from exposure to the hazard after June 30, 1973. An award was made pursuant to Section 108(k) of The Pennsylvania Workmen's Compensation Act, Act of June 2, 1915, P.L. 736, as amended, added by the Act of October 17, 1972, P.L. 930, as amended, 77 P.S. § 27.1(k). We agree with the referee and the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board that the existence of a silica hazard at Findlay's plant was established.
Mr. Paul Pakulla, vice-president of Findlay, testified that the majority of the refractories made by Findlay contain thirty-five percent silica. Wright and a fellow employee testified that there is dust throughout the plant caused by the mixing of ingredients that goes into the blocks and by the crushing of defective blocks and other materials into a fine powder which is reused in manufacturing. All three witnesses agreed that Wright came in contact with the dust when he entered the plant to repair machines until late September 1973. In addition, the record contains a report from the Pennsylvania Department of Health showing that air samples taken from various locations in Findlay's plant in 1967 contained from 7.0 to 31.4 million dust particles per cubic foot of air and that the amount of free ...