The workplace injuries in workers’ compensation cases are not always obvious injuries like broken bones, lacerations or carpal tunnel syndrome. Earlier this year, the Environmental Protection Agency reported that in 2011 Massachusetts companies released nearly 1.7 million pounds of hazardous chemicals into the air all over the state while performing legal activities at manufacturing plants. Companies are required to submit detailed reports about how they handle these toxic chemicals to the EPA.
The data showed that in Worcester County, Massachusetts 72,492 pounds of toxic chemicals were released through smokestacks and 25,498 pounds were released through leaks during manufacturing. One company alone released 15,000 pounds of these chemicals. The company made adhesive and film; the largest amount of chemicals released was of toluene, which can inflict known harms to the cardiovascular and nervous system. Another company released 13,000 pounds of methanol into the air in 2011. Methanol may cause headaches, blurred vision and dizziness. Yet another released 8600 pounds of styrene that year; styrene harms the liver, the nervous system and may cause cancer.
The American Lung Association has noted that releasing all the chemicals mentioned above can produce serious harms. Those who work in a manufacturing environment or the industrial industry are likely more exposed to these chemicals than office workers, but these kinds of injuries can be found in many different industries. Long-term exposure to chemicals in the workplace may give rise to injuries that can be handled through the workers’ compensation system.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics stated that in 2011, exposure to harmful substances or environments caused 401 of 4,609 workplace injuries. Exposure to other harmful substances like poison and chemicals that were inhaled or absorbed through skin caused 130 workplace deaths.
OSHA emphasizes short-term safety and its rules on workplace safety are effective for many industries. However, sometimes long-term harms can go undetected. The injuries and illnesses arising from asbestos exposure may be better known than other kinds of chemical exposure. Because injuries caused by prolonged exposure to chemicals are not always visible, their existence may sometimes meet with resistance by employers. However, these injuries can be very serious and may be irreversible.
For example, the New York Times recently reported on how one woman who glued together foam cushions for chair and couches for years lost use of her foot due to glue exposure. The glue included the chemical n-propyl bromide and it is commonly used in dry cleaners and high tech electronics manufacturing plants—its use has expanded by fifteen times in six years. Neurological damage and infertility can result from use of this glue. The woman in the article lost use of her foot because of her exposure to this chemical. Other chronic ailments resulting from toxic air are black lung, grinder’s rot, pneumoconiosis, and stonecutter’s disease. This type of injury incapacitates more than 200,000 workers in the United States.
If you are exposed to toxic air at the workplace and suffer injuries as a result, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. While an employer is not allowed to retaliate against you for reporting this type of injury, it can help to have an experienced workers’ compensation attorney on your side to assist you through the process of filing a claim for your injuries.
If you have suffered an injury 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.