Construction workers face a wide range of potential injuries every time they arrive at their work site. When an employee’s job responsibilities involve coming in contact with hazardous chemicals, they run the risk of developing specific health issues that can range from relatively mild to life-threatening. Whether ingested, inhaled or absorbed through the skin, chemical hazards in the form of dust, fumes, gases and vapors can result in severe burns, disfigurement, organ damage, neurological injuries, respiratory issues and birth defects thereby warranting attention from a construction accident attorney in New Jersey.
In an effort to bring attention to this matter, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) initiated a national dialog in order to improve the safety standards for those who have been exposed to hazardous chemicals. The first step of this process was to reach out to organizations in order to collect information regarding their existing chemical exposures and risk management.
OSHA Assistant Secretary of Labor, Dr. David Michaels, said the organization is consulting with public health experts, chemical manufacturers, employers, unions and other organizations in an effort to address the problem and identify new and improved protocols.
Initiate a Preventative Plan
According to OSHA regulations, any employer of a business that manufactures or imports chemicals is expected to be aware of the hazards they pose and ensure that appropriate safety information is readily available. If there are chemicals on site, employees must be made aware of these risks.
An effective risk management plan should include the following:
- Sharing information: An effective plan begins with generating awareness and understanding among your employees. Educate your staff about any chemical hazards and request their feedback on new policies and guidelines. Once you have a cohesive safety program, make sure that it is distributed throughout the company.
- Create a response system: Having a plan in place in the event of a chemical accident will help with loss control. Employees should know exactly how to respond, steps to take and the appropriate emergency services to contact. Conduct practice drills on a regular basis.
Examples of Hazardous Chemicals
The following are examples of hazardous chemicals used in construction that can cause a range of health issues.
- Zinc: A chemical used to manufacture brass and other alloys. When inhaled, it can cause metal fume fever.
- Iron Oxide: Fumes arise during the welding process that can irritate the nasal passages, throat and lungs.
- Mercury: Short-term exposure can cause stomach pain, diarrhea, kidney damage and respiratory failure. Long-term exposure can result in tremors, hearing damage and emotional instability.
- Fluorides: Exposure to fluoride “fluxes” can irritate the eyes, nose and throat. Ongoing exposure can cause pulmonary edema and damage to bones.
- Ozone: This highly active form of oxygen can irritate all mucous membranes and have long-term effects on the lungs.
- Nitrogen oxides: High concentration of this chemical can cause shortness of breath, chest pain and pulmonary edema.