Occupational Risks of Working with SolventsFebruary 10, 2020
Every day, millions of workers in the United States are exposed to different types of solvents, which are chemicals used to thin or dissolve paint, grease, epoxies, adhesives, and coatings. These chemicals can cause a range of health issues, depending on the type of solvent and if they get into the worker’s bloodstream. Employers have a responsibility to provide the appropriate training and personal protective equipment for workers who are exposed to solvents. If a worker suffers an injury or a serious health issue after working with a solvent, they should contact an experienced Workers’ Compensation lawyer as soon as possible.
Health Risks Associated with Solvents
Solvents can cause a range of health issues when it makes its way into the bloodstream. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), solvents can cause serious health hazards if the following occur:
- Breathed in: When a solvent evaporates, it becomes a vapor, which can be easily inhaled. This can irritate the nose, throat, and lungs. While some solvents have strong odors, others are odorless, making them more difficult to avoid.
- Touched: Solvents are very irritating to the skin and can cause extreme dryness and cracks. Never wash your hands with solvents.
- Swallowed: If a solvent is swallowed and ingested, it can irritate or burn the mouth, throat, stomach, and intestines. Always wash your hands before eating or drinking if you were using solvents.
Steps Employers Should Take to Protect Workers
To ensure that all employees who work with solvents are protected from hazardous exposure, employers should provide the following:
- Safety Training: OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard states that employers must train employees about the chemical hazards they may be exposed to at work, provide safety data sheets (SDS), and label products. Category 1 products are the most hazardous, and employers must ensure that workers know when they are being exposed to a Category 1 solvent.
- Exposure Prevention: When possible, employers should make water-based products available, as they are safer than chemical solvents. If this is not possible, employers should make sure that the workspace is properly ventilated, particularly near the source so that solvent vapors are removed from the air before employees breathe them in. A properly trained employee should inspect any confined space to ensure that it is well ventilated.
- Provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Employers must provide workers with the appropriate PPE based on the type of solvent they are using, including gloves, eye protection, and respiratory protection. Paper and HEPA respirators do not protect workers against chemical solvents. OSHA also requires employers to have a Respiratory Protection program in place.
Baltimore Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Protect Victims of Solvent-Related Injuries
If you or a loved one was injured or suffered a health complication resulting from exposure to chemical solvents, contact the Baltimore Workers’ Compensation lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton. We will work tirelessly to ensure that you receive the maximum financial benefits you deserve, including lost wages, medical expenses, and prescription medications. Our dedicated team will walk you through every step of the claims process and address all your questions and concerns. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at 844-556-4LAW (4529) or contact us online. Located in Baltimore, we serve clients throughout Maryland.