What to Do if You Have Been Exposed to Hazardous Substances at the Workplace?

Hazardous Substances can be defined in several ways. Under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH), they have beenx classified as toxic, very toxic, corrosive, harmful or irritant. Considerable concentrations of Biological agents and Dusts are also termed as hazardous substances. Exposure to such substances can cause bodily harm.

Problems caused by hazardous substances can be short- or long-term, being the cause of dermatitis, asthma and cancer. For example, when bleach comes in contact with skin, it causes burn or inflammation, but little long- term effect. However, if it comes in contact with the eyes, it could cause permanent damage to the eyesight. Correspondingly, wood dust affects lungs and can cause long-term or even permanent respiration problems.

People who work with or are exposed to such substances are at risk. Exposure to more hazardous matter for a longer period is riskier than exposure for a short-term or exposure to less hazardous matter. Precautionary measures should be taken to prevent exposure to hazardous matter. Where exposure is inevitable, ample regulations should be considered.

Examples of personnel exposed to hazardous material are:

  • Cleaners – Commonly used cleaning materials contain biological agents which are known to cause burns and various skin complaints.
  • Hairdressers – Hair dressing products also contain agents which can cause skin damage.
  • Welders – Fumes from oxyacetylene flames are known to cause respiratory hurdles.
  • Bakery workers – Flour and bakery dust is a known irritant for the eyes and nose. Skin problems and asthma are also a genesis.

This list is rather short, but the people who are exposed to such matter are increasing by the hour. It is the duty of the employers to ensure the safety of their employees as well as the public. All employers and workplaces are under the protection of General Health & Safety legislations. Furthermore, specific regulations are generated for safe use of hazardous materials.

About 500 substances have Workplace Exposure Limits (WELs) in EH40, namely the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health regulations 2002 (COSHH). Amendments were made to these regulations effective 6th April 2005. The fore coming regulations include focus on good practice and help employers encounter their duties under the COSHH legislation. If these legislation are not being implemented and if any employee gets hurt because of hazardous substances then one should contact right attorney for workers compensation.

The principles which apply regardless of a substance having a Workplace Exposure Limit are given hereunder:

  • Modify operations to minimize exposure or spread of Hazardous matter.
  • Consider all pertinent routes of exposure-inhalation, skin contact and ingestion-while developing precautionary measures.
  • Select the most efficient measures, which greatly reduce the chance of exposure or spread of hazardous material.
  • Provide suitable protective equipment where ample control of exposure is unattainable, including other options for precaution.
  • Provide adequate training to employees about the hazardous materials involved in their work, and protective equipment allocated.
  • Certify that the establishment of precautionary measures does not escalate the risk to health and safety of the employees.

It is vital to impose steps to manage accidents and emergencies. Measures provided for normal activities may be adequate but emergencies like mass spillage or exposure demand a different set of measures. Contingencies to deal with such circumstances are also important.

Author Bio:

With more than 25 years of experience, Florida marital & family law attorney Steven R. Brenners provides exemplary legal service for family law cases.

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