Common Health Hazards
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has identified three categories of health hazards found at construction sites:
There are several different types of chemical hazards present in construction sites:
Most of the physical hazards are unrelated to toxic exposure. However, OSHA lists ionizing and non-ionizing radiation under the Physical umbrella.
- Fungi (mold)
- Bloodborne pathogens
- Poisonous plants
- Poisonous and infectious animals
Toxic exposure can be avoided if proper safety protocol is practiced. It's up to your boss and chemical manufacturers to notify you and provide the proper protection for worksites with toxic health hazards. Management should regularly evaluate job sites for the presence of these hazardous conditions.
Spotting Health Hazards
Employees should be educated on construction site dangers and trained to identify the presence of such conditions. There are a few ways to recognize health hazards on the job:
Sometimes there are visual manifestations of toxic materials. While most gasses and vapors are invisible, you may occasionally see vapor clouds and particles in the air. Chemical dust also often settles on the ground after being airborne. This dust may become airborne again if it's disturbed. Finally, keep an eye out for warning signs and labels which warn about toxic elements.
Smell and Taste
Smelling a chemical means that you're inhaling the chemical. This doesn't necessarily mean you've been exposed to toxic levels. It depends on the chemical's odor threshold. Some chemicals give off a smell for low amounts which are non-hazardous. It would be wise to know a chemical's odor threshold in order to determine if toxic exposure has occurred. You should never intentionally taste a potentially harmful chemical, but sometimes you might accidentally inhale or get some in your mouth. If you taste a chemical, it's likely that you've been exposed.
In some toxic exposure cases, symptoms surface right away. Your respiratory system may become contaminated with particles which are visible when you blow your nose. Exposure to solvents causes a narcotic effect, with feelings of dizziness, drunkenness, tiredness, and headaches.
Who is Liable For Toxic Exposure?
If you're a construction worker who has discovered health problems caused by toxic exposure, a Workers' Compensation claim is your best route for compensation. Pennsylvania's Workers' Comp laws prohibit employees from suing their employer after an on-the-job injury, regardless of the degree of negligence. However, worker's comp claims will often be insufficient. If your injuries were the result of a third party's negligence, then you will be permitted to file a lawsuit against that party.
For example, let's say the manufacturer of the chemical you were toxically exposed to neglected to mention that specific types of protective equipment should be used to limit exposure. This act of omission would constitute negligence on the part of the manufacturer. In this scenario, you have the right to sue that manufacturer for the negligence which leads to your health problems.
If you're concerned that your job site may contain toxic chemicals, we recommend requesting an OSHA inspection. They will evaluate your safety standards and cite your employer for any violations. You are permitted to remain anonymous. If you suspect third party negligence contributed to your exposure, an experienced personal injury lawyer can fight for the compensation you need to recover.