Chemicals are very important to our lives, and are critical components in many of the manufacture items that we need in our day to day lives. Chemicals can be very useful, even life saving in the case of pharmaceuticals. But many chemicals are also very dangerous. Taking the form of solids, liquids or gas, chemicals can be dangerous to handle, and can be caustic or corrosive. There are workers in many different industries employed in Atlanta who are required to work with highly toxic and dangerous chemicals as part of their job duties. For these workers, it is critically important to exercise caution and to take appropriate safety measures when working with hazardous chemicals.
Some of the most dangerous chemical substances that workers can be exposed to include asbestos, lead, pesticides, paint fumes, benzene, beryllium, acids, caustic solvents, silica, arsenic, mercury, and many other hazardous chemicals. Noxious vapors, improperly cleaned up residues and accidental spills can all cause serious harm to workers. Some chemicals are so deadly or dangerous that even exposure to a tiny amount can cause a worker serious and long lasting harm.
Workers Who Are Exposed to Chemicals
Workers in a variety of industries are exposed to chemicals that are potentially hazardous. Some examples of workers who are routinely exposed to chemicals during the normal course of performing their job include:
- Laboratory workers;
- Chemical manufacturers;
- Shipyard workers;
- Oil rig operators;
- Water and sewer treatment workers;
- Pharmacists and pharmacy technicians; and
- Janitorial workers who have to use caustic cleaning supplies.
Chemicals can harm workers in a number of ways. Not only are there a number of different means by which a chemical substance can cause harm to a worker (i.e., inhalation, accidental ingestion, accidental skin exposure, etc.), but the types of injuries that chemical exposures can cause are also varied. Some common chemical exposure injuries workers suffer include:
- Irritation (skin, lung, eye, etc.);
- The development of a skin rash;
- Chemical burns to the skin, eyes, airways, etc.;
- Sensitization or desensitization;
- Inhalation injuries;
- Dermal injuries due to chemical burns on the skin;
- The development of cancer;
- The development of benign tumors;
- Neurological damage;
- Brain damage; and
Injuries that are caused by chemicals are often long-lasting. Chemical burns to the skin and airway tissues often produce serious scars during healing, that can be disfiguring. This can cause an injured worker to suffer psychological harm (i.e., due to disfiguring facial scarring from chemical exposure) or physical difficulty breathing (i.e., if lung tissue and other airways are so severely damaged by exposure to chemicals that scarring forms, making breathing more difficult).
Protections for Workers Exposed to Chemicals
The Occupational Safety and Health Act requires employers to provide workers with safety protocols, safety equipment and proper and regular training to ensure that workers are not exposed to undue risk when it comes to handling chemicals in the workplace. Some of these regulations include:
- OSHA Permissible Exposure Limits. OSHA prescribes certain chemical exposure limits that are considered safe for workers. While there is a general industry standard of OSHA permissible exposure limits, there are also special standards for marine terminals, longshoring, shipyard employment and construction.
- Access to Appropriate Safety Equipment. Workers are to be provided with the appropriate safety equipment and personal protective gear for the chemicals that they are handling. This could include protective clothing, gloves, eye protection, respirators, etc. and access to the appropriate equipment necessary to handle the chemicals safely, such as a ventilated hood rated for the type of chemical used or adequate fans to produce sufficient airflow in the chemical handling area. Employers are required to train their employees on the proper and effective use of the safety equipment and personal protective gear.
- Hazardous Material Regulations. There are a number of regulations concerning hazardous materials that employers must follow. For instance –
- Inspections of chemical containers, such as compressed gas cylinders, must be conducted regularly.
- Flammable liquids must be labeled and handle in a particular way.
- Chemicals are required to be labeled with their safety indications, and material data sheets are to be made available to employees.
On the Job Chemical Exposure and Workers’ Compensation
Despite there being laws in place to protect workers from chemical exposure injuries while on the job, countless workers are harmed by chemicals every year. The exposure might be due to a workplace accident, or because a safety protocol was inappropriate, or because inadequate safety equipment or personal protective gear was provided to the worker. Whatever the case may be, a worker who is injured on the job by chemicals can seek workers’ compensation for his or her workplace chemical exposure injuries.
A workers’ compensation claim can be filed for worker injuries due to on the job chemical exposure, but it is important that workers report their injury to their employer as soon as possible after the exposure occurs, but not later than thirty days after the exposure. After reporting the chemical exposure, workers have up to a year to file their workers’ compensation claim.
As a general rule, workers’ compensation in Georgia is not based on fault, with limited exceptions. This means that the employer could be at fault for the worker’s chemical exposure (e.g., employer provided inadequate safety equipment or protective gear for the worker’s use), or the worker could be at fault for the exposure (e.g., worker accidentally knocked over a container of the chemical and experienced an accidental exposure). In some situations where exposure to the chemical is due to the worker’s willful negligence or wildly inappropriate behavior, the worker’s workers’ compensation claim might be denied. For instance, a worker who suffers chemical exposure on the job while high on drugs, or drunk, may not be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.
Contact the Atlanta Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Bader Scott Injury Lawyers
Workers can suffer all kinds of injuries on the job, but chemical exposure injuries are uniquely painful and complex. Employees can be harmed by inhaling, ingesting, or touching hazardous chemicals, which can causes irritation, rashes, burns and other serious injuries. The professionals at Bader Scott Injury Lawyers are committed to helping Atalanta workers seek and obtain workers’ compensation for their medical expenses and lost wages. Our committed work injury claim lawyers in Atlanta can assist you with all aspects of your workers’ compensation claim. Contact us today.