Preventing Toxic Exposure in the Workplace
June 22, 2023
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that the U.S. uses an excess of 86,000 types of chemicals to perform different tasks. For individuals who encounter chemical hazards and toxic substances in the workplace, this poses a unique health and safety risk. To protect these workers, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has guidelines and standards in place so that employers take the necessary steps to safeguard employees from known and recognized hazards that they encounter on the job every day.
Toxic substances and chemical hazards are substances that are capable of inflicting mild to severe harm to users, regardless of whether they have a preexisting allergy to the substance. OSHA reports that chemical hazards and toxic substances create a wide range of health and physical hazards, such as:
Workers handle a variety of toxic substances and chemical hazards, including asbestos, arsenic, beryllium, ethylene oxide, formaldehyde, lead, mercury, toxic metals, silica, toluene, and more. To limit the risks associated with exposure to these substances, OSHA designed its Hazard Communication Standard. The Hazard Communication Standard is in place to ensure that information about chemical and toxic substance hazards in the workplace and associated protective measures is disseminated to workers by their employers.
Here are just a few examples of what the Hazard Communication Standard requires to improve health and safety efforts in the workplace:
- Worker education and training. Employers must train employees to handle chemicals in an appropriate and safe manner. Employee training must also include information on the hazards of the chemicals in their work area and the measures that are to be used to protect themselves
- Chemical manufacturers and importers must evaluate the hazards associated with the chemicals they produce or import. They must prepare safety data sheets and labels that convey this information
- All employers with hazardous chemicals in their workplaces must provide safety data sheets and labels to workers
- Permissible exposure limits, or PELs. OSHA sets enforceable PELs to guard workers against an array of negative health effects of exposure to toxic substances, including limits on the airborne concentration of hazardous chemicals in the air
According to OSHA’s overarching policy, engineering and work practice controls are to be the primary means of reducing employee exposure rates, wherever feasible. This includes taking crucial steps like abiding by the agency’s permissible exposure limits, evaluating chemical hazards, providing safety data sheets and labels, and ensuring comprehensive employee training. In addition to engineering and work practice controls like these, employers must also provide workers with respiratory protection — at no cost to the employee – whenever work practice and engineering controls are not feasible or while engineering controls are still in the stage of being implemented.
Employers are legally obligated to provide workers with a safe and healthful workplace that is free from serious recognized hazards. When an employer fails to comply with OSHA’s guidelines and undervalues the wellbeing of their employees, lives are put on the line. If you become ill or are injured from exposure to chemical hazards or toxic substances in the workplace, you should file a workers’ compensation claim. Workers’ compensation is a type of insurance that provides wage replacement and medical benefits to injured workers. If you would like to learn more about filing a claim for your injuries, someone at our firm can help. Contact a representative online now.
Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Galfand Berger, LLP, Representing Injured Victims Since 1947
Contact the Philadelphia workers’ compensation lawyers at Galfand Berger today. Call us at 800-222-USWA (8792) or fill out our online form for a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, we serve clients throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania, including Allentown and Harrisburg.