Every employee has the right to work in an environment that is safe and free of hazards that can cause injuries or life-threatening illnesses. When employees are exposed to certain chemicals and toxic materials at work, it can pose a range of health hazards including irritation, sensitization, and carcinogenicity. Employers have a responsibility to notify and educate employees about ways to identify potentially hazardous toxins, and the steps to take if you are exposed to a dangerous toxin or chemical.
If there are hazardous materials on site, your employer is required by law to provide information about these materials. Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) provide employees and emergency personnel with information about a range of toxins, including how to properly handle the substance, the level of toxicity, the health effects, how to store and dispose of the material, protective equipment that should be worn, and what the spill and leak procedures are.
Depending on the type of work you do and the potential toxins you may be exposed to, your employer may have MSDSs on certain chemicals as well as specific products that may contain hazardous chemicals. For example, your employer may provide an MSDS on a chemical called toluene, as well as one for welding rods that contain toluene. Employees should make a habit of checking the warning labels on all hazardous chemicals or products in order to determine whether a substance is potentially dangerous.
Steps to Take to Prevent Exposure
According to the Centers for Disease Control, if there are toxins present, taking the following steps can help prevent or reduce further exposure to the hazardous material:
- Elimination/Substitution: If an existing process, material, or equipment poses a risk of injury or illness, eliminate or replace it with one that is similar, but less hazardous.
- Engineering Controls: When a barrier or limiter is placed between a potential hazard and a worker who could be injured by the toxin, the hazard can be isolated and controlled. Examples of ways to isolate a hazard include machine guards, fume hoods, electrical insulation, glove boxes, acoustical containment, and remote equipment. The use of wet methods can reduce the distribution of dusts and other particulates.
- Ventilation: A potentially hazardous airborne substance can be controlled by ventilation, either by diluting the concentration of a substance by mixing it with uncontaminated air, or by capturing and removing the substance at its source.
- Administrative Control: Employers or safety officials can reduce employees’ exposure to chemical hazards by making changes to certain operating practices, including limiting access to high hazard areas, preventative maintenance programs that reduce leaks of hazardous substances, and adjusting work schedules.
- Appropriate Safety Equipment: Employees should always wear the recommended personal protective equipment required for the job, including the use of a personal ventilator, mask, gloves, eye protection, and chemical protective clothing.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, elimination or substitution is the recommended method of reducing employee exposure to toxic chemicals, followed by engineering controls. Administrative controls are appropriate when engineering controls cannot be implemented or if an alternate procedure is needed. Personal safety equipment is effective, but it is the least desirable.
Baltimore Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Advocate for Victims of Occupational Exposure
If you or someone you love has been injured or become ill as a result of being exposed to a hazardous chemical or toxin at work, you are urged to contact the Baltimore Workers’ Compensation lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton at your earliest convenience. Our dedicated and compassionate team will review the details of your case and seek the maximum allowable benefits based on the nature of your injuries. We will protect your legal rights throughout the claims process and ensure that you obtain the financial compensation that you deserve. For a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 844-556-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.