What started as a minor throat irritation progressed to a hacking cough and a burning feeling in your lungs. Now, your entire body is stricken with pain and it’s difficult to get around, let alone go to work and earn a living. These are the terrible side effects of toxic chemicals; a hazard about 32 million employees are exposed to on the job. The effects of chemical exposure can show up immediately or wreak havoc on the body over time, and the health consequences can be severe.
Workers who suffer an injury or illness due to chemical exposure can file for workers’ compensation to receive payment for their medical expenses and replace a portion of their lost income.
Chemical exposure in the workplace
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), there are an estimated 650,000 existing chemical products in American workplaces. OSHA puts permissible exposure limits (PELs) on the amount or concentration of a chemical in the air to protect workers from the health effects of chemical exposure. Unfortunately, hundreds of new chemicals are introduced each year, and PELs only cover a fraction of them. This makes chemical exposure a serious risk for employees who work in shipyards, construction sites, manufacturing plants, and other environments where chemicals are used.
Under the Hazard Communication Standard, issued by OSHA, employers are responsible for identifying and listing hazardous chemicals in the workplace along with the risks of chemical exposure. Employees should participate in OSHA training and education programs offered by their employers to learn how to protect themselves from the hazards.
Health effects of toxic chemical exposure
Some of the most common toxic chemicals that that can cause injury to employees on the job are asbestos, lead, benzene, cyanide, pesticides, mercury, and silica. Asbestos and cyanide in particular are considered highly toxic because a very small amount can cause health problems.
The health effects on a worker’s body can be acute or chronic. Acute effects appear immediately or soon after chemical exposure. They can be minor, such as sneezing or a sore throat, or serious, like blindness. Chronic health effects can take years to show up and are usually caused by long-term exposure to toxic chemicals. The effects are typically permanent and can include liver damage, heart conditions, brain damage, cancer, and low sperm count in men.
Additional health effects of chemical exposure include nausea, vomiting, dizziness, headaches, shortness of breath, rashes, burns, tremors, loss of balance or coordination, and miscarriage in women.
Workers’ compensation claim for chemical exposure
In the workplace, the most serious hazards are often the ones we can’t see. Invisible or not, employers are required to cover any accident a worker has on the job (with a few very limited exceptions). An employee who suffers an injury or illness due to chemical exposure can file for workers’ compensation to collect benefits that will pay for all related medical bills and replace a portion of his or her lost income.
To file for workers’ compensation, an employee must report his or her workplace injury to a supervisor as soon as possible. It’s important to explain that the injury was caused by toxic chemical exposure to get the proper medical treatment and build a compelling workers’ compensation case. The process of filing for benefits can be daunting to go through alone, especially when you’re not feeling well. A workers’ compensation attorney can help you file the right paperwork and get the funds you need to recover.
At the Law Office of Gerald Brody & Associates, we have over 45 years of experience helping injured workers collect the benefits they deserve after a workplace injury. If you or a loved one has suffered an injury or developed a chronic illness due to chemical exposure at work, call us today at 619-528-9800 for a free consultation.