Knowing what we know now about the dangers of asbestos, it’s hard to believe that workers once handled the material with no protection and no concern for their own safety. It makes you wonder—what is the next asbestos? Is there a material we are working with today that will prove to be deadly down the road? There may be no way to know that, but we can make sure that all precautions are taken whenever workers are handling potentially harmful substances. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) offers guidelines for controlling exposure to toxic substances and chemical hazards that every employer should be aware of.
OSHA’s Recommendations for Controlling Exposure
The best case scenario, according to OSHA, is to eliminate the dangerous material from the workplace altogether by finding an alternate method of production or a substitute, safer, material. If that is not possible, the next step is to limit exposure. OSHA’s recommendations are in the form of a pyramid or hierarchy of desirable steps for worker protection as follows:
- Elimination or substitution. Through careful consideration, testing, and evaluation, employers may be able to find alternative materials that are safer for their employees and save them money in healthcare and workers’ compensation costs later on.
- Physical changes to the workplace. If elimination of the material is not possible, employers should implement changes to the way the material is handled. Contact with the substance should be minimized or isolated. Wet methods may be used with substances that create dangerous dust or other particulates. Finally, ventilation and fume hoods can reduce exposure to harmful gases.
- Work practice controls. Limiting exposure to an individual worker by rotating employees through more dangerous jobs and adjusting schedules to limit contact should be considered.
- Personal protection equipment. If there is no way around employees handling the dangerous material, then employers must make sure they are provided with state-of-the-art protective equipment such as chemical protective clothing, respiratory protection, gloves, and eye protection.
If you believe you may have contracted a serious illness due to exposure to toxic materials in the workplace, contact the workers’ compensation attorneys at Kansas City Accident Injury Attorneys. Put our years of experience working with victims of workplace negligence to work for you. Call us now at (888) 348-2616.