In April, a packaging company agreed to settle the Environmental Protection Agency’s claims that it violated federal and state environmental regulations at its Dudley, Massachusetts aerosol packaging facility. The EPA filed its complaint in 2012, alleging that the packaging company had violated regulations regarding its hazardous waste management, chemical accident prevention, hazardous chemical inventory reporting and prevention of oil pollution.
Specifically, the EPA alleged that the company did not fully develop or put in place a risk management plan that would appropriately address those processes that involved hazardous substances and hazardous waste. The company also failed to implement an oil prevention and countermeasure plan, and failed to inventory its hazardous materials for use by emergency responders.
Hazardous substances and waste can cause injury to both people and the environment, particularly in the event of a chemical accident or oil spill. A risk management plan can help prevent short-term exposures or decrease the severity of injuries from those releases that do occur.
While workplace accidents leading to injury are more commonly associated with workers’ compensation, illnesses arising at workplaces where workers come in contact with harmful substances are also common. Workers suffering from work-related illnesses can bring workers’ compensation claims for lost wages and medical expenses.
Massachusetts is not one of the twenty-five states with an OSHA-approved plan for hazardous waste. However, OSHA has federal standards that cover compressed gases, acetylene, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrous oxide, flammable liquids, explosives, liquefied petroleum gases, anhydrous ammonia, and highly hazardous chemicals.
Among other things, OSHA mandates that an employer should perform an initial process hazard analysis on every process it has in order to identify, evaluate and control hazards according to who they might affect and the extent of the hazard. Employers are also advised to develop and implement written operating procedures with clear instructions on how to safely conduct work activities.
Under OSHA guidelines, any on-site management or supervisors who are responsible for hazardous waste operations or for employees dealing with hazardous waste are supposed to receive 40 hours of initial training and 3 days of supervised field experience and at least 8 additional hours of specialized training related to the health and safety program, as well as any spill containment program or health hazard monitoring procedures. Workers should be given training in working with hazardous waste and should wear protective clothing or gear when appropriate. They should be told to report any potential safety hazards to their supervisors immediately.
Workers may suffer as a result of an acute exposure to hazardous substance or waste or experience long-term illnesses as a result of chronic exposure. These exposures may be the result of toxic materials being inhaled or absorbed by the skin or consumed in the form of contaminated food or water. Health problems resulting from an acute exposure may be obvious; they include difficulty breathing, burning, coughing, nausea, tearing, and skin reactions. Over a long period of chronic exposure more significant and less-obvious problems can develop, including cancer, liver failure, developmental issues, and infertility.
If you have suffered an illness in the workplace, we can help you resolve the legal issues that arise in this context so that you can rest and recover. If you are concerned about your employer’s workers’ compensation coverage, ask the experienced Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorneys at Kantrovitz & Associates what you should do. Call us at 617-367-0880 or contact us via our online form.