When many New Yorkers think of workers' compensation claims, they think of workplace accidents and injuries such as lacerations, broken bones and head trauma. Even though workplace illnesses are less common, they can be just as dangerous.
Many might have heard about the issues surrounding mesothelioma caused by asbestos in shipyards and building materials. Although asbestos is not used as often anymore, there are other toxins found in the workplace. Workers and employers should understand how to protect themselves and others from work-related accidents and exposure.
Those who work in a warehouse, factory or laboratory may be exposed to hazardous chemicals. One way to find out is to look for warning signs. These may be found in certain areas or on specific materials and containers.
If your job duties require you to work with toxic chemicals, your employer should provide you with Material Safety Data Sheets. The informational guides are created to provide you with information about the chemical, such as storage, usage, disposal and first aid instructions.
Those who work with dangerous chemicals should be provided with appropriate safety gear, such as a mask, protective clothing or ventilator. Ventilation is especially important, as this helps dilute the chemical and reduce its toxicity. If possible, the chemical should be substituted for a safer one. If this is not possible, employers should employ methods to reduce workers' exposure, such as adjusted work schedules.
Chemicals are sometimes used in the manufacturing process, so it is not always possible to eliminate them entirely. However, workplace safety should be a high priority for employers. No employee should be forced to work in an unsafe environment. Those who have been exposed to toxins are advised to seek assistance to understand their rights and legal remedies.
Source: FindLaw, "Toxic Exposure in the Workplace," accessed Nov. 28, 2014