Thousands of workers in California and around the country are exposed to toxic substances ranging from corrosive chemicals to dangerous gasses every day. Many of these substances cause only minor medical problems like skin rashes and eye irritation, but some of them have been linked with a range of deadly cancers. Workers can also suffer burns and other injuries in accidents that occur when these substances catch fire or explode.
The law requires employers to inform their workers about any toxic substances they may be exposed to while performing their duties. This information can often be found on Material Safety Data Sheets. These documents list the type of substances that workers or first responders could encounter, the dangers associated with these substances and the protocols that should be followed to prevent injury or illness. Common safety protocols associated with dangerous substances include providing eye protection, posting warning signs, issuing workers with protective clothing, and equipping workplaces with devices that measure air quality and sound alarms when dangerous gasses are present.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Hazard Communication Standard explains the kind of information that employers are expected to share with their workers. There are also OSHA standards for a wide range of dangerous chemicals and gasses. OSHA can impose fines and other sanctions on employers when safety standards are ignored or workers become sick or suffer injuries because they were unaware of workplace dangers.
The workers’ compensation claims filed by workers who became ill after being exposed to toxic substances while on the job are sometimes challenged by their employers or their workers’ comp insurance providers. This is because admitting liability in these situations could lead to a flood of claims from other workers who have also become sick. Attorneys with experience in this area may advocate on behalf of sick workers during workers’ compensation hearings and file appeals when their claims are denied.