When people talk about workers’ compensation, they often focus on injuries sustained while performing a work function. However, aside from physical injuries, Florida workers can develop occupational illnesses. One common way this happens is exposure to hazardous substances (chemical hazards).
This article discusses toxic substances in the workplace and the possible side effects. Workers who develop an occupational illness due to exposure to toxic chemicals may be eligible for workers’ compensation. Our attorneys at Work Injury Rights will ensure you get all the benefits you are entitled to under the law. So, contact us today.
What Are Chemical Hazards/ Toxic Substances?
A hazardous substance can be any item or agent — of biological, chemical, radiological, or physical nature — that causes harm to humans. According to the United States Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), chemical hazards and toxic substances pose many health hazards. This includes irritation, sensitization, and carcinogenicity. They also pose physical threats like flammability, corrosion, and explosibility.
When exposed to these hazardous substances, workers suffer short and long-term effects like poisoning, skin rashes, disorders of the lungs, kidneys, and liver. This is why OSHA admonishes companies with toxic chemicals to label them appropriately. In action, they must ensure that their employers understand their function and the risk they pose.
OSHA specifically states that all employers must:
- Label all hazardous chemicals and provide safety data sheets for all exposed workers
- Train their employees on how to handle the substances appropriately
- Ensure the training for employees include information on the hazards of the chemicals in their work area and the measures to be used in protecting themselves
Common Types of Hazardous Substances
Hazardous chemicals are common in industries like agriculture, manufacturing, construction, and medical organizations. The degree of the risk posed depends on the concentration of the chemical. Typical hazardous substances in the workplace include:
- Caustic substances
- Heavy metals like mercury, lead, cadmium, aluminum, etc
- Petroleum products
How Do Hazardous Substances Enter the Body?
A toxic chemical cannot harm you unless it touches or enters your body and has a biological effect. Generally, there are four significant ways this can happen. They are through:
- Inhalation (breathing)
- Skin (or eye) contact
- Swallowing either by eating or ingestion
The most common way of getting hazardous substances into the workplace is by breathing contaminated air. This is because some chemicals are capable of passing the skin into the bloodstream. They can also go through the eyes, but only a small quantity of chemicals can enter through the eyes.
Workers may also swallow chemicals if they accidentally enter their food or drink. For this reason, workers should not keep their food or drink in an area with hazardous chemicals. Lastly, the injection of a chemical substance occurs when a sharp object or a needle punctures the skin and injects a chemical or virus directly into the bloodstream. Thankfully, taking in hazardous substances through injection is quite uncommon in workplaces.
What Are the Side Effects of Exposure to Chemical Substances?
The health effect suffered when exposed to toxic substances depends on the type of chemical and the level of exposure. Some of the possible health effects are:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Chemical burns
- Skin rashes like dermatitis
- Disorders of the lung, kidney, or liver
- Nervous system disorders
- Different types of cancers, etc.
Will I Get Work Comp for Exposure to a Hazardous Substance in Florida?
Under Florida law, workers who develop an occupational illness due to hazardous chemicals in the workplace are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. However, chemical exposure is hard to prove because of the unseen nature of chemicals. It also doesn’t help that illnesses resulting from such exposures take time to develop. Depending on the level of exposure and the time frame, it could take months or years before the health effects appear.
As a result, employers and their insurers often argue that the illness is unrelated to exposure to hazardous substances. If they succeed with this claim, they will get away with not paying your work comp benefits. This is why you should hire a workers comp attorney. Speak with an attorney immediately after the adverse health effects start manifesting.
Contact Experienced Florida Work Comp Lawyers Today!
At Work Injury Rights, we understand that employers don’t always take the right steps to protect their workers from hazardous substances. As such, we will fight to get you the work comp benefit you deserve if you develop an occupational illness. So let us help you. Contact us today to schedule a free case review.