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Reynolds v. General Motors Corp.

Decided: November 29, 1955.


McGeehan, J.s.c.


In the Division of Workmen's Compensation, petitioner George Reynolds was awarded workmen's compensation, and the respondent employer appeals.

The petitioner, now 42 years of age, was employed by the respondent from August 1942, until September 19, 1951. Prior thereto he had worked regularly as a grocery clerk, stock clerk and theater usher, and then in the shipping department of the United Features Syndicate.

The petitioner worked for the respondent as an internal grinder intermittently from the start to November 1946, then continuously as such to July 23, 1951, after which he was employed as a setup man in the same department, but still working at the grinding machines, until he left for reasons of illness on September 19, 1951. His work as a grinder consisted in doing what is known as wet grinding, in that a coolant ran over the work; the steel bearings, otherwise called races, were placed in the grinding machine and ground down by a rapidly propelled grinding wheel. There was a spray from the coolant solution which got on the clothes and body of the grinders and later would turn to dry dust or grit. The wheels used for grinding wore out or ground down; between 6 and 12 grinding stones would be used up daily and have to be changed. The grinding stone breaks away to a certain degree and the grinder must dress it off from time to time with a diamond needle, and this operation caused a cloud of dust. The face of the grinder is held within 16 or 17 inches of the grinding wheel; the dust from the grinding wheel gets on the grinder's clothes, in his hair and in his nose and throat. The petitioner had to blow his nose frequently and when he did so, a colored substance, mostly black, sometimes gray, came from his nose; his voice became raspy and he expectorated frequently.

The room in which he worked was well ventilated, with a change of air every 7 minutes and 52 seconds, without the

use of windows. There were large windows in three sides of the room, approximately 20 in all, which were opened in the summer, and during the balance of the year were opened to the extent that weather conditions permitted. Dust count tests made as late as April 1951 disclosed that the dust concentrations were below the permissible limits for that type of dust as specified by the New Jersey Department of Health. The dust samples collected in the aisle between the four grinding machines such as petitioner worked with consisted of iron particles and artificial abrasive particles which are classed as inert dust. Testings showed two million particles of this dust per cubic foot of air, while the New Jersey Department of Health, in 1947, specified a permissible limit of fifty million particles per cubic foot of air for inert or nuisance dust. There was air-borne mist in the room from the coolant.

Petitioner drank occasionally but not excessively and smoked one pack of cigarettes a day. Prior to September 1951 he had not suffered any serious illness or exposure to tuberculosis.

Upon employment, X-ray examination of his chest was made which showed an increase in the hilar shadows, with calcification in and around the hilar areas. Both Dr. Lieb, who testified for the petitioner, and Dr. Applebaum, who testified for the respondent, agreed that the presence of calcification in the right hilar zone in these first X-rays taken of petitioner on August 24, 1942, was evidence of a pre-existing latent tuberculosis that was quiescent, and further that tuberculosis can be reactivated without contact. X-rays taken September 4, 1945, and September 11, 1947, showed the same conditions as shown on the X-rays of August 24, 1942.

On September 6, 1951 the petitioner had chills and fever at work. He saw the foreman and the plant nurse and returned home, where he was treated with penicillin by his family physician. He stayed away from work until September 13, when he returned and was examined by the plant physician, Dr. Paul. X-rays were taken at the plant, but were not immediately examined. Later examination of these

X-rays by Dr. Paul, after petitioner had left his employment on September 19, disclosed "advanced pulmonary tuberculosis, right upper lung field." The plant physician, Dr. Paul, after the examination of September 13, returned the petitioner to work. He felt weak, but continued to work until September 19, when he consulted his own physician, who sent him to St. Vincent's Hospital. The St. Vincent's Hospital diagnosis, made September 20, was pulmonary tuberculosis in the right upper lobe, with numerous cavity formations in the region of the right upper lobe. He was transferred to Bellevue Hospital, where he was admitted September 21, 1951. Thereafter, the disease spread to the right lower lobe and to the left side following streptomycin therapy. A first stage thoracoplasty was done on December 9, 1952, and a second stage on December 29, 1952; in all, portions of seven ribs on the right side were removed. He was discharged from Bellevue Hospital on March 30, 1953, with a diagnosis of pulmonary tuberculosis, 111B associated disease thoracoplasty. Thereafter, he was admitted to the Herman M. Biggs Memorial Hospital in Ithaca, New York, where he was confined until October 14, 1953, when he was discharged at his own request. Since then he has been under observation in the New York City Health Department and Bellevue Hospital for periodic examinations.

Petitioner first began to feel ill in April 1951. He was tired, had shortness of breath, slept poorly, had night sweats, and there was an increase in coughing, both morning and night. These conditions continued until September 6, ...

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