Toxic Chemical Exposure and Workers' Comp

Today, the average person encounters many types of toxic substances. According to the Global Healing Center, people might encounter up to 2,100,000 toxins daily. These contaminants can reach us by air, by food, and, as we’ve seen in Flint, Michigan, by water. (Early in 2014, Flint changed its water source from the treated Detroit Water and Sewage Department water to the Flint River, which was contaminated with high levels of lead and improperly treated. Thousands of people were exposed, causing a number of health problems.) Considering many of these toxins are byproducts of industry, it’s no surprise people who work in industrial manufacturing plants and mining facilities encounter significant amounts of toxins in their day-to-day work life.

Can I Avoid Toxins at Work?

In certain industries, it is vital to take every precaution to minimize exposure to toxic chemicals because so many of them are present on a daily basis. Some of these jobs, for instance, always come with a risk of toxic chemical exposure:

  • Farm/grain work
  • Mining
  • Jobs involving diesel fume inhalation
  • Construction
  • Welding
  • Aerospace industry work
  • Flavoring and popcorn work

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was created to protect workers like you from unnecessary levels of toxic exposure. Manufacturers whose workers will handle potential health hazards must educate their employees on what the toxin is, how it can affect their health, and how to properly handle the substance. If a worker isn’t typically exposed to something like a barrel of radioactive waste, but they work in a building where those barrels are stored before shipping, the barrels themselves must be labeled appropriately so the worker knows to avoid them. OSHA laws also state that employers must educate their employees on how to read the labels.

Allowable Concentration of Toxins

Workers in these industries assume a certain amount of risk when they take a job. Some workers, for example, earn hazard pay if their health will be compromised on the job. Industries, however, are given leeway with airborne concentrations of various chemicals. They must identify what these respiratory hazards are and must work to minimize employee contact, but OSHA allows a level of “permissible exposure.” For example, a worker may be exposed to a toxic chemical on a daily basis, but only for 8 hours a day in a 40-hour work week. If the level of air toxicity reaches a certain threshold, the company must protect the safety of its employees over its production and either remove the employee from the situation or lower the level of toxicity in the work environment.

OSHA has many regulations on chemical hazards and toxic substances; visit their website to learn more. If your employer has not taken the necessary precautions to protect you from exposure to toxic chemicals, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation. Contact us to speak to one our Cobb County workers’ comp attorneys for a case consultation.