Exposure to Toxic Chemicals in the Workplace
When we obtain a job where we know we will be exposed to chemicals and other toxic substances on a short term or long term scale, we want the protections necessary to be kept safe in these environments. Workers know that their employers must do everything in their nature to keep them safe from harm, but still, employees become injured or fall ill every year due to exposure to toxic chemicals in the workplace. Today we want to look at some of the types of toxic exposure, the effects of chemicals on humans, damages you may be able to receive in your case, and more.
Factors to be Evaluated by OSHA
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have evaluated guidelines when it comes to workers and their safety around hazardous chemicals and substances. Here are a few of those terms and regulations:
- The action level concerning toxic substances, which concludes if exposure monitoring and medical surveillance is necessary depending on the substance
- Ceiling limit, which is exposure limitations that a worker should never exceed
- Short term exposure limit, which is how long a worker can be exposed to working conditions, typically 15-30 minutes
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has shown how different chemicals can cause various effects on the human body. In many workplaces, such as the construction workplace, workers could be exposed to soil, sediment, and dust, which happens if they ingest it or breathe it in. There are many other hazardous chemicals and substances that have a major impact on workers every year, which we will discuss next.
Dangerous Workplace Chemicals
Did you know that the EPA and OSHA combined have discovered that there are about 164,000 chemicals and substances used in the workplace that could have hazardous effects on the human body? Toxic industrial chemicals are manufactured and used everywhere in the world today, putting a variety of workers at risk. These chemicals can take the form of gas, liquid, and solid states and affect the lungs or cause cancer in the worst cases. Common types include chlorine, sulfur dioxide, propyl nitrate, hydrogen phosphide, and more. Here is a closer look at some of these chemicals and the effects of harmful substances on humans:
Ammonia: Ammonia is a gas that is colorless and extremely irritating, with a suffocating odor. You may have worked with it at some point because it is one of the most common industrial chemicals used in workplaces today. It is used when manufacturing plastics, as a coolant gas, and so much more. When workers are exposed, they could experience symptoms like burning in the respiratory tract and coughing or throat irritation.
Chloroform: Chloroform is also used in plastics production and for a variety of other uses in the workplace. However, when a worker breathes it in or makes skin contact, they could experience adverse effects. Small amounts can cause light-headedness, headaches, and confusion while higher amounts can cause changes in respiratory rate, cardiac effects, and more. If you are exposed to a high amount, you could even go into cardiac arrest and die.
Dimethylformamide: This is used as an industrial solvent and could easily cause damage to the liver from short term exposure. Long term exposure could lead to nausea, vomiting, jaundice, and more.
Effects of Harmful Substances on Humans
There are three main ways that humans are exposed to chemicals, which include: breathing in chemical gases or dust, skin or eye contact, or swallowing when chemicals have spilled onto food or your hands. When you have been exposed to chemicals in the workplace, you could experience effects on an acute (short term) or chronic (long term) level. Here are the differences between the two:
Acute: You experience the effects immediately after you have been exposed. They tend to be either minor or major, depending on the type of exposure. You could experience anything from throat irritation or eye damage to passing out, which could cause many dangers in the workplace.
Chronic: Chronic exposure happens over time, and could even take years to show up. The effects are usually permanent because the toxic substance has had years to wreak havoc on your body. You might not have even realized you were exposed for so long.
You’ve Been Affected by Toxic Substances – Where Do You Turn?
Often times, when you are working around chemicals that could cause you harm, your employer is well aware of this and will ensure that you have proper safety procedures in place. With an area being ventilated properly and workers wearing protective gear, the risk of exposure lowers significantly. Some of the most common types of safety gear include goggles, gloves, full body suits, and more. Employers actually have a legal duty to ensure that all workers are given protective gear if they will be permitted in these environments. However, every year employees discover that their personal protective gear and other equipment used in the workplace is inadequate, or they have been pushed into a situation that led to exposure. In these cases, chemical exposure in the workplace could have already taken its toll on someone and they might not even know it.
When it comes to the effects of chemical exposure, you might not know that you have been affected until many months or years down the line. It’s never too late to act because you have a chance to bring a claim the moment you discover that you have suffered an injury or illness due to your workplace. You want to ensure that any claims against your employer are accepted, so here’s what you can do:
- Report the exposure as soon as possible
- Explain how you believe you were exposed
- Gather names and contact information from those who knew you were exposed
- Receive adequate medical treatment
- Ensure that healthcare providers know you were exposed
You may be able to receive a variety of damages from your toxic exposure workplace claim. Perhaps you have already and will receive extensive treatment in the years to come due to your exposure, or you have missed significant time at work. In the worst cases, you may even be permanently disabled due to chemical exposure. We want to help you in your time of need as you navigate the legal system and fight for your rights. At the McGuire Law Firm, we care about your case and want to help you receive the compensation you deserve during this time. Call us for more information on how we can help at 888-352-0624.