Workers Compensation and Chemical Exposure

Tolbert Beadle

Whenever you go to work, you deserve to have a safe experience. The last thing you want to think about is inhaling, touching or accidentally ingesting a harsh chemical while you are trying to perform your tasks. Regardless of the efforts put forth by your employer in terms of personal protective equipment, safety training and creating a safe work environment, you may still be exposed to dangerous chemicals while fulfilling your vocational duties.

Health complications as a result of chemical exposure can be challenging to determine at first, it’s a common way American workers develop occupational diseases. Asbestos and mesothelioma is the most prevalent example of how repeated chemical exposure without any protective equipment or protocol in place can result in widespread occupational illness. 

Not only can dangerous chemicals affect you and your ability to make a living, but recent research shows that toxins can be transported to your home and exposed to family members. This leaves your loved ones vulnerable to an unsafe workplace too.

Chemicals are a hazard to you and your family, and you should be compensated for any medical expenses that occur from contact with them. Modern science and safety measures have helped to eliminate or better control industrial use of hazardous synthetic materials in most work environments. However, you should always know what to do if you find your health at risk.

So, how do you get compensation from your employer? What jobs leave you most at risk? What are some of the most common toxins found in the workplace?

Common Jobs Using Chemicals

While chemical exposure may be something we think only affects workers in the scientific and industrial field, it can affect employees in a wide swath of careers. Employees in, but not limited to, these fields can be hurt toxic chemical exposure:

  • Factory workers
  • Miners
  • Painters
  • Agricultural workers and farmers
  • Janitors and Cleaning Services
  • Cosmetologists
  • Health Care Workers

These jobs are just a few examples, as almost all American workers are exposed to chemicals at some point throughout their workday. Toxins can even affect officer workers if their workplace is not well ventilated after a thorough cleaning or if their building uses outdated insulation.

Signs of Chemical Exposure

Chemical exposure can affect most of your body’s systems, so it’s crucial to remember that you may react differently to chemical exposure than someone else. Some of the most common signs are:

  • Loss of nervous system function:
    • Repeated exposure to dangerous chemicals can give your nervous system a myriad of problems due to its sensitivity. Nervous system dysfunctions are particularly scary because they affect your entire body’s function.
    • Some symptoms include: inability to move, loss of feeling, confusion and decreased speech, sight, memory, muscle strength or coordination.
  • Respiratory complications:
    • Fibers, debris and fumes can be inhaled easily if the ventilation in the workplace is not up to modern standards.
    • Mesothelioma is one of the most well-known and widespread diseases caused by asbestos particles from poor insulation in industrial work environments.
    • Particles or gasses can cause breathing problems, chronic coughing, shortness or breath and
  • Skin Deformities
    • Besides inhalation, chemical exposure to the skin is one of the easiest ways to get an occupational illness.
    • Not only can the skin itself be affected, but dermal absorption can bring chemicals into the body and cause many problems.
    • On the surface, chemical burns on the skin can cause an immense amount of discomfort and pain if you try to continue working as usual.

What To Do If Exposed to a Chemical at Work

Seek a Medical Expert

If you begin to notice symptoms of chemical exposure, make sure to speak with your medical care provider. Your doctor can give you a better determination of if your illness or condition is the result of chemical exposure or something else. He or she will ask you a series of questions related to your illness and workplace environment to see if there is a correlation between the two.

Report the Illness to Your Employer and File A Work Injury/Illness Claim

If your doctor determines your illness is the result of occupational chemical exposure, your next step is to contact your employer and file a worker’s comp claim. Most states only have a 30-day window, so it’s essential to take care of this quickly. Use the notes you received from your doctor to describe how you got the condition, or where it most likely originated.

If you have any witnesses to the origin of the exposure, ask to include them in your report. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration have whistleblower statutes that protect those who report health and safety violations from retaliation.

Your employer should then look to how they can fix the problem with better personal protection equipment, safety training or removal the chemical entirely.

Get Treatment and Recover

After your claim is accepted, you should begin to get treatment for your occupational illness. If your claim is denied, learn more about what to do next here. Workers’ compensation insurance should cover all medical treatments. Depending on the severity of your illness, you can receive compensation for your time away from work.

Rare Case of the Third-Party Lawsuit

Missouri is a no-fault state when it comes to workers’ compensation claims, meaning fault doesn’t have to be proven to receive compensation. However, this means you cannot sue your employer for your chemically-related illness. If you or your employer determines that your exposure is the fault of a third-party, like a manufacturer or owner of a worksite, you may be able to file a claim against them for your chemical exposure.

Always Get Expert Legal Advice

Whenever you are dealing with an occupational injury or illness, seeking an experienced attorney or lawyer in workers’ compensation can help you to navigate through the weeds and make sure you are taking the appropriate steps to receive compensation for your time away from work.

If you have been exposed to dangerous chemicals or toxins on the job, contact Tolbert Beadle today. Our attorneys are experts in workers’ compensation and will make sure you receive maximum benefits for your occupational injury.

To learn more about workers’ compensation and other personal injury claims, visit our blog page.