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Toxins and the workplace: What you should know

Written by Ankin Law Office

Many Illinois employees face considerable health risks from toxins in the workplace. Common workplace toxins, including solvents, pesticides, fuels and chemical reagents, can cause lasting physical damage. According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, more than 55,000 American workers are temporarily or permanently disabled every year after exposure to poisonous materials or pollutants on the job. The hazards of toxic chemicals are impossible to eliminate completely, but Illinois employers and employees can decrease the risk of severe injury by following best practices in the workplace. Proposed new legislation would make these safety practices easier to follow.

Decreasing the hazards of workplace toxins

OSHA guidelines require employers to provide all of the following safety measures for workers who are in contact with hazardous materials:

  • Personal protective equipment, including masks, personal ventilators and protective clothing
  • Isolation and containment of toxic substances
  • Thorough ventilation of the workspace
  • Substitution of less toxic materials whenever an alternative is practical
  • Preventive maintenance of all machinery and equipment
  • Ongoing education about proper handling procedures and safety measures

By following these six OSHA regulations, employers can cut the risk of toxic exposure in the workplace by more than 75 percent. Unfortunately, many Illinois employers neglect these practices, placing their workers at risk of injury, disability or death.

New Illinois legislation aims to make the workplace a safer environment

A new bill proposed in Illinois aims to make the workplace safer and decrease the risk of occupational disease from exposure to toxins. SB 2128, the Illinois Hazardous Materials Workforce Training Act, calls for a new safety training curriculum for all employees at high-hazard facilities. The act requires all workers who come into contact with toxins, including subcontractors and apprentices, to be thoroughly educated about the dangers and risks of the substances they handle. SB 2128 establishes a special fund for this educational work. This act also provides considerable penalties for employers who do not train their employees properly before allowing them to work with toxins.

Know your rights as a disabled worker

Workplace toxins can create many lasting problems, including skin diseases, burns, vision disturbances, loss of smell, severe headaches and psychological damage. If you have been disabled by exposure to toxic materials at work, you have the right to workers’ compensation in Illinois. Consider speaking with a personal injury lawyer today to learn more about the benefits available to you.