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Chemical Exposure In The Workplace


When you think of workplace accidents, you may think of slips and falls, electrocutions, and machinery accidents. However, there is another deadly danger lurking in workplaces in New York and across the country: chemical exposure.

An estimated 13 million workers in the United States are exposed to chemicals while performing their job duties. These chemicals can be absorbed through the skin and lead to various medical issues, including occupational skin diseases. These diseases may include contact dermatitis, skin injuries, skin infections, and skin cancers, with dermatitis being the most common.

While anyone can be at risk for skin conditions caused by chemicals, the most common industries include the following:

  • Construction
  • Mechanics
  • Cleaning
  • Painting
  • Agriculture
  • Health care
  • Food service
  • Cosmetology
  • Printing

Common Risks 

There are many types of chemicals to be aware of in the workplace:

  • Asbestos
  • Lead
  • Mercury
  • Acids
  • Pesticides
  • Aluminum
  • Benzene
  • Petroleum
  • Silica

These chemicals can be grouped into these categories:

  • These are chemicals that are not corrosive but can cause damage to skin, such as solvents.
  • These chemicals cause irreversible damage, such as hydrochloric acid.
  • These chemicals can cause an allergic reaction, such as isocyanates.
  • Carcinogens can cause cancer, such as asbestos.
  • These are chemicals that can cause damage to chromosomes, such as benzene.
  • These are chemicals that cause birth defects, such as thalidomide.

These chemicals can enter the body via skin contact, ingestion, injection, and inhalation.

Effects of Chemical Exposure 

Chemicals in the workplace can cause short-term and long-term injuries. They can cause immediate damage such as burns as well as chronic illnesses, including cancer. Common injuries from chemical exposure include burns, rashes, throat injuries, and nerve damage.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has rules that limit chemical exposure at work. These laws were put into place after it was discovered that exposure to asbestos caused long-term effects on the human body.

Understanding Your Rights 

Not all employers will serve as your advocate, so as an employee, you need to understand your rights in the workplace. Under the law, you have the right to do the following:

  • Receive workplace safety training in your language of choice.
  • Perform your tasks with safe equipment.
  • Report a workplace injury or illness
  • Receive copies of medical records.
  • View results of tests performed to find workplace hazards.
  • Be protected from retaliation if you complain to OSHA or inform your employer of an accident or workplace hazard. 

Contact Us for More Information About Workers’ Compensation Benefits 

Workplace accidents can encompass many types of incidents. Many workers and employers overlook the damage that chemicals can do.

Employers must educate employees on how to safely handle chemicals that they may be exposed to in a workplace. When they fail to do so, they can be held liable. White Plains workers’ compensation lawyer Michael Lawrence Varon can help you obtain compensation for a work-related injury. Call (914) 228-1770 or fill out the online form to schedule a free consultation.



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