Part-time, full-time, temporary, and seasonal workers who've suffered harm due to chemical exposure in the workplace are eligible for workers' compensation benefits. This includes coverage for medical care and income replacement.
Occupations at Risk of Chemical-Related Injuries
Almost any occupation could hypothetically result in chemical exposure injuries. However, the following workers face the highest risk of this type of hazard:
- Janitors and other maintenance personnel may be exposed to harmful cleaning chemicals.
- Painters are exposed to chemicals in the paint itself as well as the solvents used to clean up after a project.
- Factory workers face exposure to various types of chemicals throughout the manufacturing process, especially when they are producing products involving rubber or plastic.
- Miners are often exposed to asbestos, uranium, and radon.
- Agricultural workers are exposed to pesticides on a regular basis.
- Hairdressers and manicurists work with potentially dangerous chemicals all day long.
Causes of Chemical Exposure Injuries
Chemical exposure injuries in the workplace can often be attributed to the following factors:
- Inadequate personal protective equipment. Depending upon the chemicals being used, goggles, gloves, helmets, face masks, or full body suits should be used to prevent injury.
- Inadequate ventilation. A lack of fans or other methods for circulating air can cause harmful fumes to build up.
- Poor storage. Chemicals that aren't stored in labeled and secure locations might spill or be misused.
- Poor training. Workers who are poorly trained might not realize the danger of certain chemicals.
Types of Chemical-Related Injuries
Some of the different injuries associated with chemical exposure in the workplace include:
- Burns from chemicals making contact with skin.
- Rashes or other skin irritation.
- Throat or lung injuries from breathing or ingesting chemicals.
- Neurological damage from inhalation, skin contact, or swallowing.
Some of these injuries, such as burns, only require one incident of exposure; others, such as cancer, become a risk when a worker is exposed to dangerous chemicals under unsafe conditions for a long period of time.
Receiving Compensation for Your Injuries
Workers' compensation claims have nothing to do with fault. You can receive benefits even if your employer took all reasonable precautions to prevent your injury. You can also receive benefits if you were at fault for your injury due to poor training or inattentiveness, as long as you were not using drugs or alcohol at the time.
Workers' compensation benefits will pay for the cost of your medical care. However, you cannot simply seek treatment from your regular family doctor. You must treat with a provider on your employer's panel of physicians. If necessary, he will refer you to a specialist to treat your condition.
If you are left unable to work because of your injuries, you can seek income replacement benefits. Temporary Total Disability (TTD) benefits pay a portion of your wage when you are unable to work at all. Temporary Partial Disability (TPD) benefits pay part of the difference in wages when you are working in a lower paying occupation or have a reduced schedule due to your restricted duty status.
Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) benefits are available when you have been left with a lasting disability from chemical exposure. They are paid after you are no longer receiving TTD or TPD benefits.
In most cases, workers' compensation benefits are the sole remedy for on-the-job injuries. However, chemical exposure might also be compensated in a third-party personal injury claim if the manufacturer of the chemical in question did not adequately inform users of the dangers associated with its use.
Protecting Your Legal Rights
The first step in accessing your workers' compensation benefits is filing a notice of injury with your employer. You are not required to retain an attorney to receive benefits, but seeking legal representation can ensure that your case proceeds in a timely fashion. When a claim involves injuries related to prolonged chemical exposure, it will be particularly helpful to have an attorney's assistance establishing that your injuries are work-related and not caused by some other factor.
Rechtman & Spevak’s attorneys have extensive experience helping injured Georgia workers process their workers' compensation claims in a timely fashion. Please call today to schedule a free, no-obligation initial case review.