Nearly 32 million workers are exposed to hazardous chemicals in the workplace.
According to OSHA, 650,000 different chemicals are used in 3 million workplaces. Hazardous chemicals were responsible for nearly 3 million injuries or illness in 2014. This is the reason why chemical safety in workplaces is crucial. In this post, our St. Louis work injury lawyer will discuss workplace chemical safety in detail.
Key facts about occupational chemical exposure
- Occupational chemical exposure can lead to serious illnesses such as cancers and skin, kidney, heart, brain, lung, reproductive and nerve diseases
- Chemicals agents are responsible for majority of occupational skin disorders and diseases. Chemicals agents can be categorized into primary irritants and sensitizers. While direct or primary irritants can act directly on the skin by way of chemical reactions, sensitizers do not cause immediate skin reaction, however, repeated exposure can trigger allergic reactions.
- Occupational skin disease is the second most common type of work-related illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)
- The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has reported that in 2014 more than 50 percent of almost three million chemical injury cases were serious in nature and involved days off from work, restriction of duties and job transfer.
- Chemicals can react very quickly and cause an injury. Hazardous chemicals take as less as 6-8 seconds to penetrate the outer membrane of the eyes, and just 10-15 seconds to severely damage the skin.
As a worker, it is your right to get access to safe working conditions. Your employer has some duties towards maintaining a safe working environment. In order to maintain chemical safety, employers need to fulfill the following responsibilities:
- Working with dangerous chemicals can prove very risky, so the worker must wear proper personal safety equipment, which can include chemical gloves, protective clothing, goggles and face shields.
- Employers should have a hazard communication program in place that should include a written plan, chemical inventory and employee training.
- Employers should make showers and eye wash stations easily accessible, because when exposure occurs, the worker has only a few seconds to make it to a shower or eye wash station to prevent damage. It is therefore important that workers are able to locate and reach the shower or wash station easily.
- Employee training is extremely important to ensure their safety. Making them aware of simple steps such as not rubbing the injury and flushing the skin till help arrives can go a long way in preventing extensive damage. Workers should be encouraged to be prompt in helping injured workers, because each second is crucial once someone has been exposed to a hazardous chemical.
What you can do
If your employer fails to provide a safe working environment, you can report it to OSHA. In case you have suffered injuries in a chemical incident at the workplace, you should consult a competent St. Louis workers compensation lawyer to learn more about your rights. Call (314) 361-4300 for a free case evaluation.