Can you be exposed to toxic substances at work and not know it?
Decades ago, a series of television ads featured the slogan, “Better living through chemistry.” It is true that much of what we take for granted as conveniences or even necessities of modern life depends on the availability of a variety of liquids, gasses, and other materials not found in nature. Some of these substances find their way into the products we use; often, they are essential to the manufacture of those products.
A salient characteristic of many of these substances is that if they are improperly used or stored they can be hazardous to anyone exposed to them.
Although the state of laws in Pennsylvania and at the federal level protecting workers from toxic exposure to hazardous substances has improved significantly since the days when workers could be exposed to a material like asbestos without being warned of its dangers. But the existence of a law does not by itself guarantee that such exposures cannot occur at the workplace. And even though most manufacturing employers see their workers as valuable resources, and not expendable assets, it does not preclude the possibility of on-the-job accidental exposures to a variety of dangerous substances.
For example, some chemicals that are not properly stored may cause vapors that can be absorbed through the skin without the affected workers being aware of it. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that skin absorption is one of the most common ways that toxic exposure occurs.
If workers do not have access to Material Safety Data Sheets that employers using toxic materials are required to possess, they may not be aware of the dangers that unknowing or accidental exposure to those materials pose. They may also fail to take proper precautions when using or storing those materials.
Laws and regulations protecting workers from dangerous chemicals are part of the system in place to protect employees from hazardous substances, but even a seemingly minor act of negligence can still result in workers ingesting or otherwise absorbing such substances and being harmed.
This post cannot cover all of the ways that you can protect yourself or how the law can assist you if you have been exposed. If you believe that you have suffered a toxic exposure, an attorney may be able to help you to determine your possible legal remedies.