Construction workers are exposed to a whole host of potentially dangerous situations while on the job. Many of those dangers are visible to the naked eye, like the risk of falling from high places, the potential dangers of confined spaces and operating large, heavy equipment.
But while they are not always visible, hazardous chemicals come with their own set of risks that can range from burns and respiratory problems to internal organ damage, neurological defects and certain types of cancer. If you have suffered any of these injuries you may be eligible for financial compensation with the assistance of a construction accident attorney in New Jersey.
Challenges Managing Hazardous Waste Materials
Management and disposal of these materials can be challenging and require proper training by all project personnel. Some of the common challenges of managing hazardous waste materials include:
- All construction personnel must be trained on the management of hazardous waste.
- Potentially hazardous materials must be stored under watertight conditions, while still allowing them accessible for use.
- The contractor must be ready to respond if a spill occurs on the construction site.
- If a spill is not properly cleaned up, it may become necessary to sample and analyze the site.
Effects of Toxic Chemicals
Depending on the chemical, the body absorbs chemicals through inhalation, ingestion or swallowing and absorption through the skin. Toxic chemicals like gas, vapors, fumes, dust and mist can lead to a range of serious health problems. These are categorized into acute effects and chronic effects.
Common acute effects:
- Skin irritations like rashes and dry skin
- Corrosivity that burns or dissolved skin tissue
- Metal fume fever (resulting from inhaling fine particles of zinc, magnesium and copper)
- Sensitization or allergic reactions that lead to anaphylactic shock
- Lethal concentration
Common chronic effects:
- Occupational hearing loss
- Cumulative hearing disorder
Employees who work in confined spaces are at an even greater risk than others of exposure to dangerous situations. The potential for a lack of oxygen, exposure to toxic fumes and the risk of electrical shock is a significant risk for these individuals. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provides a great deal of information regarding handling and story chemicals properly.
Here are examples of hazardous welding agents that can be hazardous to the health of construction workers:
- Zinc: Exposure can cause metal fume fever. Zinc is used in the manufacture of brass, galvanized metals and other alloys. Inhalation can happen when welding or cutting on zinc-coated metals.
- Cadmium: Used as a rust-preventative coating on steel and as an alloying element. An estimated 70,000 employees in the construction field have been exposed, according to OSHA. Acute exposure can lead to severe lung irritation, pulmonary edema and death. Chronic exposure can cause emphysema and damage to the kidneys.
- Beryllium: Used as an alloying element with copper and other base metals. Short-term exposure can cause pneumonia. Long-term exposure can cause shortness of breath, chronic cough, weight loss and general weakness.
- Iron Oxide: The main alloying element in the manufacture of steel, toxic fumes from iron oxide fumes arise from the base metal and the electrode during the welding process. Short-term effects include irritation of nasal passages, throat and lungs.
- Mercury: Used to coat metals to prevent rust and block foliage growth in marine paints. Acute exposure can cause stomach pain, diarrhea, kidney damage and respiratory failure. Chronic exposure can lead to tremors, emotional distress and hearing damage.
- Lead: Welding of certain metals whose surfaces have been painted with lead-based paint can produce oxide fumes. Breathing in or ingesting can cause lead poisoning. Lead also affects the brain, central nervous system, circulatory system, reproductive system, kidneys and muscles.
- Fluorides: Fluorides are found in the coatings of certain fluxes that are used in welding. Exposure can cause irritation to the eyes, nose and throat. Ongoing exposure can cause pulmonary edema and bone damage.
- Chlorinated Hydrocarbon Solvents: Certain types are used in degreasing or other cleaning operations. The vapors can be hazardous when decomposed, which forms highly toxic phosgene gas.
- Phosgene: Forms when chlorinated hydrocarbon solvents decompose due to ultraviolet radiation. It can destroy lung tissue when it reacts to the moisture in the lungs.
- Carbon Monoxide: Welding and cutting can produce high levels of carbon dioxide. Hazardous concentrations of carbon monoxide can result from using it as the inert gas shield in welding operations.
- Ozone: Produced by the ultraviolet light from the arc. It can cause irritation to all mucous membranes, and have long-term effects on the lungs.
- Nitrogen Oxides: High levels of nitrogen oxides can result in shortness of breath, chest pain and pulmonary edema.