Written by Faith Anderson on July 30, 2013
In addition to the burn injuries, falls from buildings, defective tools, and other risks plaguing construction workers on a daily basis, workers on construction sites are also at risk of chemical exposure, which can have life-threatening consequences. Chemicals on the job site can enter the body through inhalation, which is the most common form of exposure; ingestion, in which the chemical is accidentally swallowed through drinking, eating or smoking; absorption, in which the chemical is absorbed through contact with the skin or eyes; or injection, in which a chemical enters the body through a puncture wound. Chemical exposure at the workplace can have acute or chronic effects on the worker’s health, possibly resulting in significant illness, disability or even death. If you were exposed to harmful chemicals on a construction site, contact an experienced construction accident attorney today.
Opportunities for Chemical Exposure on Construction Sites
Because of the wide array of tasks construction workers perform each day, the potential for exposure to dangerous chemicals comes in a number of different forms. Chemicals can exist in the form of liquids, mists, dusts, fumes, fibers, gases or vapors. Some examples of chemical hazards found in construction work include:
- Carbon monoxide
- Spray paint
- Welding fumes
If a worker is removing or installing insulation, he or she may be at risk of exposure to asbestos, fiberglass or mineral wool. If a worker is welding, he or she may be exposed to carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, cadmium and manganese, among other chemicals. If a worker is using paint or varnish on the job site, he or she may risk exposure to acetone, lead, cadmium, chromium or turpentine.
Harmful Effects of Chemical Exposure
There are two types of health effects exposure to harmful chemicals can have on a worker: acute and chronic. Acute effects typically appear immediately or within a short time following exposure, caused by sudden, short-term, high concentration exposures. Some examples include headache, collapse, or death from high levels of carbon monoxide. Chronic effects, however, usually develop slowly, sometimes over the course of 15 to 20 years or more, caused by continued or repeated exposure for a prolonged period of time, usually years. An example of a chronic health effect is lung cancer from exposure to asbestos.
Dangers of Chemical Exposures in Confined Spaces
One of the main reasons why adequate ventilation is such an important aspect of the construction industry is because exposure to chemicals in confined spaces can be deadly. Airborne chemicals on the job site can quickly reach dangerous levels in confined spaces that are not well ventilated. Common confined-space chemical hazards include hydrogen sulfide, carbon monoxide, solvent vapors and welding fumes. Confined spaces include vaults, sewers, manholes, tanks or boilers in new construction or in repair and maintenance work. Unfortunately, as many co-workers who attempt rescue die in confined spaces as the number of original workers who collapsed.
Workers’ Compensation Benefits for Chemical Exposure
The adverse health effects of chemical exposure on construction sites can range from minor complications like headaches, to potentially fatal complications like lung cancer. Construction workers who suffer from illnesses caused by chemical exposure on the job site may be entitled to critical benefits by filing a workers’ compensation claim for medical bills and lost wages. The families of workers whose chemical exposure resulted in death may be entitled to death benefits under workers’ compensation laws. When it comes to on-the-job injuries and illnesses, workers may also be eligible for additional compensation by filing a third-party liability claim, if their injury or illness was caused by a third party not employed by their employer.
Contact a Construction Accident Attorney Today
The construction industry is inherently dangerous, and workplace hazards on construction sites lead to more fatalities than any other industry in the United States. Unfortunately, injuries, illnesses and loss of life resulting from on-the-job accidents on construction sites are often caused by avoidable factors like unsafe working conditions, ignored safety protocol or simple negligence. It is the responsibility of employers and supervisors to ensure a safe work environment for their employees, and when they fail to do so, the consequences can be devastating. If you have been injured or become ill because of exposure to hazardous chemicals on the job site, or if you lost a loved one to chemical exposure, contact a construction accident attorney today. You may be entitled to compensation for your medical bills, loss of income, and other expenses associated with the workplace accident. With the help of a qualified construction accident lawyer, you can pursue the compensation you deserve and protect yourself from further harm.