Exposure to poisonous chemical substances can have a devastating effect on your health. You may sustain severe injuries or develop an illness that could change your life completely. Unfortunately, the true damage that chemical exposure will have on your health is not always immediately noticeable. This means it might take you years since your initial exposure to realize that you have developed a critical health problem.
At The Workers Compensation Attorney Group in Long Beach, we can help you claim compensation if you have sustained a work-related chemical exposure injury. Regardless of whether the exposure occurred years back or just recently, our experienced attorneys are prepared to fight for the compensation you deserve.
Toxic Exposure in The Place of Work
According to the Occupational and Safety Administration (OSHA), there are approximately 650,000 chemical products in workplaces in the country. OSHA sets Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs) on the concentration or amount of toxic substances in the air to protect employees from the health risks of toxic exposure. Unfortunately, a number of new chemicals get introduced every year while PELs cover only a few of them. For this reason, toxic exposure poses a serious danger, especially to employees working in shipyards, manufacturing plants, construction sites, and other working environments where toxic substances are used.
As per the Hazard Communication Standard by OSHA, workers have the duty to identify and label any harmful chemicals in the place of work together with the dangers they pose. Additionally, they should take part in OSHA education and training programs provided by their employers so that they can learn different ways of protecting themselves from the exposures.
On the other hand, it is the responsibility of the management and supervisors to make sure that toxic formulas, chemicals substances, and industrial solvents are labeled, stored or handled carefully. They also have to meet the acceptable safety standards of the government. This is because any room for carelessness would expose an employee to the poisonous substances, which would later have him or her suffering serious injuries.
Common Types of Toxic Substances You Can Be Exposed To
An employer has to cover any accident a worker may be involved in at the place of work. Since a number of these accidents have to deal with handling chemical substances, most forms of toxic and chemical exposures are covered by your company’s worker’s compensation insurance. In addition, every employer must adhere to chemical exposure limits set by OSHA. Failure to which may lead to serious legal problems as well as possible harm to workers. However, Chemical injury allegations will be substantial only if you are working around or with toxic materials.
There are many types of poisonous chemicals that one can be compensated for after their exposure. The most common chemicals that workers can be exposed to include;
Despite the several regulation measures, the rate of asbestos exposure is still alarmingly high among employees. Even though certain bans have been effected on the chemical, it is still used in small amounts as an insulator in construction materials and buildings. Workers from almost every industry are at risk of asbestos exposure every day. These workers include shipbuilders, plumbers, insulators, construction workers, railroad operators, janitorial staff, office workers, etc. This chemical has been confirmed to cause lung cancer that may be fatal. Thus, ensure you follow the correct precautions when you are in the danger of asbestos exposure.
Benzene is a by-product of various forms of manufacturing. It is a clear liquid that produces a sweet smell when it is vaporized. It is mostly found in crude oil, resins, gasoline, and plastic production industries. Benzene is highly poisonous and a common human carcinogen, which can cause multiple health problems if you are exposed to it for a long period of time. This means that if you are employed in the gasoline or natural gas industry, you face the risk of constant benzene exposure.
This is also called quartz dust. It is a mineral that forms naturally and is found in almost every type of stone on earth. Unfortunately, when it is crushed into a fine powder through grinding, chipping or drilling, this mineral can go into your lungs and later result in significant damage. Generally, any industry that works with granite, rock and other types of stones in their production have to be cautious of their employees being exposed to silica.
Lead gets into the body mainly through inhalation and ingestion. Employees are majorly exposed to lead when they breathe in fumes and dust that contain lead particles. Construction laborers are the most affected by this exposure. When you inhale lead, it passes through your lungs into the blood. Once in the blood, it can damage vital organs. You may develop different neurological problems, anemia, kidney diseases, brain damage, and gastrointestinal effects.
According to OSHA, close to 804,000 employees in the general industry and the other 838,000 employees in the construction industry face lead exposure every year in the country. Employees who work in construction sites are exposed to this chemical during the demolition, removal or renovation of structures that are painted with its (lead) pigments. In addition, they may get exposed when installing, maintaining or demolishing lead fittings and pipes.
This is also one of the common metals found in several industries as it is commonly used in objects like thermostats, light bulbs, air conditioning, and heating equipment. Workers who handle mercury must know that there are strict rules, codes of conduct and regulations regarding mercury use.
Mercury exposure can lead to diarrhea, vomiting, and it may also have a negative effect on your nervous system and other body organs. If you are exposed to mercury fumes or if it comes into contact with your skin, it may cause kidney damage, skin irritation, memory loss, liver damage, and other severe long-term health complications.
Other harmful substances you can be exposed to include poisons, smoke, irritants, creosote, pesticides, carbon monoxide, tungsten, beryllium, sodium dioxide, manganese, chlorine, sulfuric acid, ammonia, hydrochloric acid, etc.
OSHA and Chemical Exposure Regulations
It is the responsibility of employers to make sure that all workers know how to deal with and handle each chemical substance to void risking their lives while working. OSHA laws require the employer to maintain a safe working environment for all workers. The employer must provide gloves, masks and other safety equipment to make sure the workers are safe from chemical contact at all times.
All industries under the labor department are regulated and supervised by laws implemented by OSHA. OSHA has provided codes of conduct and regulations that must be followed by all employers. The regulations aim at helping employers maintain a risk-free workplace and to educate workers on how to handle harmful chemicals in the place of work.
Employers also have the duty to relay any information on current hazardous conditions before signing in any employee so that the employee is informed on the exposure to the risk. Generally speaking, the employers have to;
- Train workers on how to detect toxic chemical exposure
- Train workers on how to use safety equipment and adhere to emergency procedures
- Relay visual information about the general regulations and safety standards so the employees can know the conditions of toxic chemical exposure
- Provide safety equipment to make sure workers have the appropriate equipment to do their work
- Provide a chemical hygiene plan that is OSHA certified so that employees can follow protocol in case they make contact with harmful chemicals
Symptoms of Chemical Exposure
Note that you might not even realize that you have been exposed to a harmful substance until days, weeks, months or even years pass. Therefore, you should seek immediate medical care if you start experiencing any signs because the condition may be worsening. Among the symptoms you should be cautious about include;
- Neurological problems
- Memory loss
- Eye irritation
- New allergies
- Difficulty in sleeping
- A breathing difficulty
- Nausea and dizziness
- Skin irritation and rashes
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Decreased or blurred vision
- Limited mobility
- Concentration problems
Immediate medical attention is necessary because the symptoms will be diagnosed and treated on time. This helps prevent your illness or injury from progressing.
Injuries Associated With Toxic Exposure
Toxic chemicals can cause great harm to your health if you get exposed to them without protection. The most common illnesses and injuries reported due to this exposure include;
- Eye damage/blindness
- Brain damage
- Organ damage
- Damage to the nervous system
- Aplastic anemia
- Reproductive system damage and birth defects
- Parkinson’s disease
- Reactive Airway Dysfunction Syndrome (RADS)
- Lung disease
- Hodgkin’s disease
These problems can be overwhelming. Some may restrict the quality of life you have been living while others may reduce your life expectancy. Therefore, it is important that you understand what legal options you have in case you sustain an injury or contract an illness that is life-changing due to chemical exposure. The Workers Compensation Attorney Group will advise you on the legal steps you can take towards claiming damages for your injuries.
Causes of Chemical Exposure Injuries
You can be exposed to chemical exposure anywhere and anytime. However, we have more frequent causes of chemical exposure than others. For instance, workplace chemical exposure happens because several employees work in unsafe conditions and around harmful substances. While we have precautions in place to protect employees from harmful exposure, they still face major risks. Employees in these occupations are more likely to be at a higher risk of chemical exposure;
- Textile mills
- Insulating professionals
- Harmful waste transportation
- Factory workers
- Construction workers
- Oil rig employees
- HVAC technicians
It is advisable always to protect yourself when working around or with harmful chemical substances. It is the duty of your employer to provide the necessary safety equipment to help safeguard yourself from negative health effects.
Also, note that you can be exposed to poisonous chemical substances in your home. This is because old buildings and homes might have been constructed using harmful materials like lead or asbestos. In addition, the water flowing into your home may be polluted with toxic chemicals that come from runoff from fracking, factory farms, and manufacturing plants. It is also possible to unknowingly bring harmful chemicals into where you stay if products are not properly labeled.
Liability for Chemical Exposure
The question of who takes responsibility for your chemical exposure largely depends on why and how the exposure took place. However, you can claim compensation from any party that contributed to the exposure that resulted in injuries. The following are the parties you can hold responsible and claim compensation from;
If you contracted an illness or were injured while on duty, you can hold your employer responsible for your illness or injuries. Most employers would claim that enforcing the necessary precautions distances them and their company from any responsibility if an employee gets injured. For this reason, whether the employer was negligent or not is not really a factor when filing a workers’ compensation claim. This means that an employer may provide safety gear, keep the current Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) binder and place warning posters in strategic areas but will still be held responsible for any injuries or accidents that occur. For you to receive these benefits, you only have to prove that you sustained a chemical exposure injury/illness while at work or while carrying out a task that was directly related to your occupation. If the actions of your employer were intentional, or in case another party was at fault for your exposure, it is within your rights to file a lawsuit.
In case the chemical exposure occurred while you were on another person’s property, you can recover damages from the person. In California, property owners are required by law to bear the responsibility of ensuring that their property is safe for visitors. They should inspect their property regularly for any dangers or address common hazards that occur. Failure to which they will be held responsible for injuries their guests sustain due to chemical exposure.
Manufacturers and Suppliers
You can file a claim against the firm responsible for designing, manufacturing or selling the harmful chemical you were exposed to in the workplace. Companies that manufacture any products including harmful substances must make sure that these products are secure for human use. If there is any possible hazard one would face for using the products, then it must be revealed. In case a company does not warn its consumers of possible dangers, or in the event that their product is unreasonably harmful, it will be held responsible for damages.
Workers’ Damages Claim for Toxic Exposure
Workers’ compensation laws make sure that an employee is legally insured in case of a work-related injury. Workers’ compensation prioritizes the well-being of a worker to make sure the worker is compensated with a disability and medical damages for the entire period he or she will be recovering.
Therefore, under these laws, you can file a compensation claim seeking the above-mentioned benefits if you have sustained an injury due to chemical exposure. You may be at the place of work or carrying out a task related to your job but outside of the work site. Either way, the compensation claim is still valid. The Workers Compensation Attorney Group lawyers will guide you on step by step process of filing a workers’ compensation claim. Among the benefits you will be getting include;
- Medical bill expenses which cover current and future medication, equipment, and diagnostic studies
- Vocational rehabilitation or physical therapy expenses
- Disability benefits. This will include temporary and permanent disability
- Lost wages and income replacement
Workers’ compensation laws ensure that all workers injured while carrying out work-related tasks receive prompt care. There are responsible employers who understand the working condition of their employees and they would provide them with workers’ compensation insurance. Still, there are those employers who withhold their workers’ benefits for a claim of inadequate evidence of liability. If your employer refuses to grant you your benefits, you have the right to file a lawsuit in pursuit for justice and fair treatment.
Note that it may be difficult to provide proof of an illness or an injury that has happened over a long time and link it to chemical exposure. You will need to obtain testimonies from different persons and certified medical professionals.
In order for you to file a compensation claim, you first must report your work-related injury to your supervisor immediately. You have to clarify that the injury is as a result of chemical exposure for you to receive the appropriate medical care and build a strong compensation case. Filing a workers’ compensation claim can be an overwhelming process to carry out on your own especially when you are feeling unwell. Our attorneys will help you to file the appropriate paperwork and receive the benefits you are entitled to receiving.
When to File a Workers’ Compensation Claim
A worker who is injured at the place of work can’t file a personal injury lawsuit against the employer. Instead, if you are injured at work, the legal step to take against your employer is filing a workers’ compensation claim.
However, if you were injured at work and you believe that it was someone else’s fault other than your employer, you have the right to file a personal injury claim against the other party. The lawsuit is referred to as a third party case since the party at fault is a third person.
A workers’ compensation claim is not based on fault as it is with a personal injury claim. Thus, for you to recover compensation against another party in a third-party claim, you have to prove that it was the negligence of the said party that led to your injuries. Not all work-related toxic exposure will result in a third-party case. It happens only when a third party was actually involved.
To help understand better, here is a case scenario; if, for instance, the employer managed the workplace, distributed the chemicals, but did not provide any safety gear to his or her employees, the employee will likely not have a third party to blame for his or her injuries except for the employer. However, if the manufacturer of the chemicals provided by the employer failed to issue a disclaimer that anybody working with that chemical has to use certain types of safety equipment, the injured employee can sue the manufacturer in a third party case. The employee can claim that the manufacturer did not provide the correct user instructions for the chemical.
Statute of Limitations for Filing a Chemical Exposure Claim
Cases to do with chemical exposure are quite different from other injury cases because signs of toxic exposure may take years or months to be evident. For this reason, the statute of limitations that applies to personal injury circumstances does not apply here. According to the Code of Civil Procedure (340.8), toxic exposure claims are to be filed in a period of two years from the time of the injury or illness or after two years from the time you became aware of;
- The injury
- Its physical cause
- Adequate facts that can place a reasonable individual on notice of inquiry that the injury resulted from his or her wrongful act
Simply put, you have 2 years from the time you realize that your illness/injury most likely resulted from the wrongful behavior of another party to file a compensation claim.
Finding a Workers’ Compensation Attorney Experienced in Chemical Exposure Cases Near Me
If you or your loved one has contracted a chronic disease or has sustained an injury due to toxic exposure at their workplace, don’t hesitate to contact The Workers’ Compensation Attorney Group. Our attorneys have experience helping injured employees in Long Beach, California, receive the damages they deserve. We are driven by the belief that any employee injured at work has the right to recover benefits regardless of the degree of the injury. Call our Long Beach Criminal lawyer at 714-716-5933 to schedule an appointment and a free consultation.