A significant portion of workplace injuries are caused by accidents while on the job. Whether this can be traced to lifting or carrying heavy objects, a slip-and-fall accident, or the stress of repetitive motion, these types of workplace injuries can have devasting, long-lasting effects. There is another category of accidents, however, that are not related to physical events and they are workplace illnesses.
Workplace illnesses and toxic exposure generally go hand-in-hand. Workers can be exposed to hazardous chemicals while on the job. Exposure can occur in numerous ways, including:
- Skin contact
- Skin absorption
Based on the type of chemical, the duration of exposure and the type of exposure, the worker can suffer a wide range of conditions and illnesses. From skin rashes and blisters to asthma and vision damage, workers might struggle with devastating conditions that require lengthy courses of treatment.
While there are countless toxic chemicals that can lead to serious illnesses, there are three that are more common than others:
- Benzene: Benzene is a chemical used in numerous industries as an ingredient for producing other chemicals. It can be a significant component in the creation of detergents, plastics and rubber. Workers who are exposed to hazardous levels of benzene are at risk for developing leukemia.
- Asbestos: For centuries, asbestos fibers have been mixed with other commercial, consumer or construction materials to improve heat and fire resistance. Unfortunately, as these materials deteriorate, asbestos fibers become airborne and can be inhaled or ingested by workers. Asbestos exposure can lead to mesothelioma, asbestosis and lung cancer.
- Silica: Materials such as ceramics, glass and bricks will likely contain silica. Much like asbestos, when products containing silica are broken or deteriorate, the microscopic mineral can be inhaled or ingested. Exposure to silica can lead to silicosis, lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Employees can face danger at the workplace without even realizing it. It is up to supervisors to provide both a proper education and the proper personal protective equipment to keep workers safe. If you were injured or lost a loved one due to toxic exposure at work, it is crucial that you contact a skilled workers’ compensation attorney.