Exposure to Toxic Substances

Large, heavy equipment and sharp tools are not the only sources of danger in construction sites. Construction site owners, managers and workers may not be totally aware of it, but substances that workers are regularly exposed to can also prove harmful to workers’ health as these can cause in them a deadly, chronic disease that will keep them out of work, require continuous medical treatment and alter the way they would conduct their future lives.

In line with its mission to create a safe and healthy working environment, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), an off-shoot of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) of 1970, passed the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) in 1986. This mandate, also known under the names, “Worker Right-to-Know Legislation,” and “Right-to-Know Law,” is primarily directed to employers, requiring them to inform their workers of the hazardous and deadly elements found, stored and used in the workplace and the measures that will protect workers from these elements’ harmful effects. Aside from this, HCS also orders that:

  • Workers be given proper training regarding health and safety risks in the workplace, as well as free access to the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), a document containing information on the potential hazards of chemical products and how to work safely with these products;
  • Warning labels and Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) be attached by manufacturers and importers on all toxic products; and,
  • Hazardous product labels should clearly specify the product’s potential effects to health, recommendations on how to store the product safely, instructions on the product’s safe use, emergency first aid instructions, and the manufacturer’s contact number/s in case the customer needs more information about the product.

 Toxic substances and chemical hazards affect the lives of more than 13 million workers in the U.S. according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But, while firms may be well prepared to assess and control the effects of deadly elements sustained through inhalation of chemical fumes, many are unwary about the same dangers these elements cause through dermal or skin exposure, which also causes occupational disorders and diseases, like systemic toxicity and occupational skin diseases (OSD).

 In fact, the CDC states that occupational skin diseases (OSD) are the second most common type of work-related diseases and these can occur in various forms, such as: skin cancers, infections, or injuries;  allergic contact dermatitis; irritant contact dermatitis; and, other types of skin diseases. People who are most prone to OSD are those in the following lines of work: construction; printing or lithography; agriculture; cosmetology; cleaning; mechanics; health care; painting; and, food service.

While employees should apply care and exercise great responsibility in the use and storage of harmful substances, employers and manufacturers have greater responsibility in ensuring that employees are safe, as much as possible, from the damaging effects of these elements.

Crowe & Mulvey, LLP exposure to toxic substance attorneys understand how devastating the harm exposure to toxic substances can cause, whether the harm is due to failure to quarantine toxic chemicals, chemical explosions or fires, failure to provide protective gear or equipment, chemical spills or, failure to find toxic chemicals in demolished materials. Thus, they are committed to holding negligent employers or other parties responsible for any resulting costs.


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