The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health mandates that employers inform employees of all the known safety hazards they might encounter. They must provide safety training to teach workers how to mitigate those hazards and also provide the necessary personal protective equipment. Certain hazards, such as dangerous chemicals, have specific rules and regulations that cover safe storage, labeling and written datasheets.
Chemicals are present in all industries, and the hazardous chemicals in your workplace could be those used for cleaning, or they could form part of a manufacturing process. However, regardless of the types of chemicals you encounter, they will threaten your health.
How do hazardous chemicals enter your body?
There are four entry routes by which chemicals can gain access to your body; some are more common than others. Your job could put you at risk in the following ways:
- Injection: This does not necessarily involve a syringe or a needle. Any puncture wound made by a sharp, contaminated object can inject hazardous chemicals into your body, with no way of preventing it from getting into your bloodstream and going on to damage organs and bodily tissues.
- Absorption: Some chemicals can enter your body through your skin, from where it might enter your bloodstream. It can cause irritation and redness of the skin, and if even a single droplet enters your eye, blindness could follow.
- Inhalation: This route of entry is most common with airborne chemical fumes, which could adhere to the respiratory tract and airways and even form deposits in the lungs, with potentially severe health consequences.
- Ingestion: When chemicals get into your mouth, only those that are corrosive or irritating will harm your gastrointestinal tract. However, absorption through the digestive tract is always possible, and once it enters the bloodstream, there is no telling what damage internal organs may suffer.
Precautions to take
Safety authorities urge employers to choose the least hazardous choices when purchasing chemicals and to provide safety training that will inform workers of potential hazards and steps to mitigate the dangers. Engineering controls can ensure proper ventilation or barriers and shields, and appropriate personal protective equipment is crucial. PPE that can provide protection includes goggles, chemical gloves, respirators, face shields and lab coats.
Your rights to compensation
If you become a victim of a chemical-related workplace accident, you might have to deal with medical expenses and lost wages due to hospitalization and recuperation. Fortunately, California workers are typically eligible for workers’ compensation benefits, and an attorney with experience in helping injured workers to get the compensation to which they deserve can provide invaluable support and guidance.