Chemical technicians and workers help in the development, testing, manufacturing and storing of gaseous, liquid and solid materials. Unfortunately, working with and around toxic, chemical substances pose a huge array of serious health hazards through exposure including carcinogenicity, sensitization, and irritation. Also, there are significant physical risks that involve the explosive, corrosive inflammable nature of many chemicals.
OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) regulates rules, policies, and protocols in handling chemicals in the workplace. Their regulatory measures include identifying certain hazards and how employers must create a safe environment. Their health communication standard requires that:
- “Chemical manufacturers and importers are required to evaluate the hazards of the chemicals they produce or import, and prepare labels and safety data sheets to convey the hazard information to their downstream customers;
- All employers with hazardous chemicals in their workplaces must have labels and safety data sheets for their exposed workers, and train [the workers] to handle the chemicals appropriately. The training for employees must also include information on the hazards of the chemicals in their work area and the measures to be used to protect themselves."
Even with regulations in place, significant problems still occur in a work environment when employees are exposed to dangerous chemicals.
If you or a family member was injured while working at a chemical plant, you are likely entitled to workers compensation benefits. Contact the workers compensation attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC for more information and a free review of your legal rights and options.
Local Safety Issues
The foundation of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration safety standards is built on the premise that work practice controls concerning safety must be the primary means for reducing and eliminating every worker's exposure to dangerous conditions in the workplace. The safety measures include minimizing the potential risk of exposure to toxic chemicals and materials. In recent years, there have been significant problems with chemical and manufacturing plants in the Chicago metropolitan area. Some dangerous condition cited by OSHA in our local community in recent years include:
- OSHA Cites Chicago Area Company for Safety and Health Violations after an Employee Is Burned
In May 2011, the US Department of Labor through OSHA cited PolyChem Services located in Chicago Heights for [backspace “one safety and five health violations, including a willful health violation for failing to ensure confined spaces were safe to enter after a worker received second-and third-degree burns at the plant in November 2010."
As a result, the company faced “propose fines totaling $63,000. The willful violation, with a penalty of $42,000, was cited after employees allegedly were required to enter a portable Baker tank and a reactor vessel that had not been evaluated first for safe entry by purging, flushing and ventilating the space, and verifying the conditions were safe."
- OSHA News Release Reveals Potential Risk of Chemical Injury at Vandalia Illinois Manufacturing Plant
In May 2015, OSHA posted a news release notifying the public of serious chemical and fire hazard concerns at a metal tubing manufacturing plant in Vandalia Illinois. The owners and management of a metal tube manufacturing plant placed employees at significant risk to their health and well-being by ignoring “standard safety rules for machines and storing flammable materials in open containers near propane heaters where they might ignite." OSHA stated that the workers were “at risk of lacerations, amputations and potential explosion and fire.
A complaint initiated the investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. During a state to review, it was revealed that investigators “found one repeated, twenty-five serious and one other than serious safety and health violations at the metal fabrication facility." OSHA proposed a $109,900 penalty against those who placed their employees at risk.
- Cicero Illinois Metal Plating Company Faces $157,000 in Fines for Eighteen Violations Over Toxic Metal, Noise, and Other Hazards
In December 2015, workers in a Cicero metal plating company were exposed to metal, live electrical hazards and machinery risks while “electroplating machine parts." Investigators determined that the elevator risks were the result of an employer failing “to follow Federal safety and health requirements. Exposure to metals – such as cadmium used in the plant – can harm the heart, nervous and digestive systems."
On December 10, 2015, OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) cited the facility and proposed a penalty totaling $157,080 for “one willful, eight repeated, eight serious and one other than serious safety and health violations." The citation noted specific violations including:
- A “failure to implement a continuing, effective hearing conservation program.
- Lack of personal protective equipment for metal and other hazardous chemical exposure.
- Electrical safety hazards.
- An adequate worker training on hazardous chemicals used in the facility.
- Lack of medical examination to monitor employee exposure to chromic acid and cadmium.
- Workers exposed operating mechanical and electrical parts because equipment lacked guards.
- Unsanitary conditions.
- Powered industrial trucks were not inspected, and operators lacked required training."
At the time of the citation, approximately thirty workers were employed at Electronic Plating.
Approximately 32 million workers employed in the United States are routinely exposed to hazardous and toxic chemicals while on the job. Statistics released by OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) reveal that there are nearly 650 varying chemicals in approximately 3 million work environments nationwide. In 2012, there were approximately 3 million nonfatal chemical-associated illnesses or injuries involving hazardous materials in America. The dangers these toxic materials present serious concerns for workers and their employers who are responsible for their safety. Common problems include:
- Exposure to chemicals in the workplace as a direct correlation to the development of cancer of the stomach, heart, skin, kidney, lung, nerves, brain, and reproductive organs.
- Exposure to chemicals is listed second in the list of life-threatening occupational diseases.
- Chemical agents are considered the cause of most skin diseases and disorders related to occupations.
- Nearly 1.5 million job-related chemical exposure cases resulted in a restriction of duties, a job transfer, or a significant number of days away from work.
According to the EPA in the United States, humans are exposed to toxic chemicals in their environment every day. This danger includes exposure to the top eight most harmful common substances:
- PCB (polychlorinated biphenyls)
- Toxic/hazardous air pollutants
Government agencies can only provide a certain level of safety from harmful toxins and dangerous work environments. It is everyone’s responsibility from the employer to the worker to maintain a safe workplace. Certain steps can be taken that include,
Chemical manufacturers, importers, distributors, and retailers must evaluate the potential dangers and hazards of using the chemical and present these dangers to employees and customers that will be using the product’s downstream.
Hazardous chemical manufacturing plants must label all dangerous products and provide safety data sheets for every worker exposed to the toxins while providing training on how to handle the chemical safely.
Taking these initiatives can prevent work-related injuries and illnesses directly associated with the exposure contact harmful chemicals. Employers providing training must follow the OSHA standard 1910.1200 listed in part below that states:
- Employers shall maintain any safety data sheets that are received with incoming shipments of hazardous chemicals, and ensure that they are readily accessible during each work shift to laboratory employees when they are in their work areas;
- Chemical manufacturers or importers to classify the hazards of chemicals which they produce or import, and all employers to provide information to their employees about the hazardous chemicals to which they are exposed, [using a] hazard communication program, labels and other forms of warning, safety data sheets, and information and training. Also, this section requires distributors to transmit the required information to employers.
- Employers shall ensure that employees are provided with information and training … to the extent necessary to protect them in the event of a spill or leak of a hazardous chemical from a sealed container.
- Agricultural or vegetable seed treated with pesticides and labeled [by] the Federal Seed Act (7 U.S.C. 1551 et seq.) and the labeling regulations issued under that Act by the Department of Agriculture.
Every worker in harm’s way should be provided personal protective equipment to safeguard against hazardous conditions while on the job. Personal protective equipment (PPE) could include:
- Wearing facial or eye protection that might include face shields, goggles, and safety glasses.
- Hand protection that might include disposable gloves that are chemical resistant.
- Skin protection including chemical resistant clothing (suits/aprons), boots and shoes.
- Respiratory protection that includes hoods and masks use with respirators.
Every worker should have personal protective equipment and be provided proper instructions on the effective way to use their safety gear and how to maintain the equipment in good operating condition. This requires learning how to clean the devices and stored the equipment to prevent exposure or contamination.
Additional training on how to handle the chemicals are important to ensure employee safety. This includes learning how to read product labels and understand how certain interactions occur when different chemicals or mix. Some of the most common hazards associated with working with chemicals include:
- Explosive or flammable chemicals
- Hazards that can occur when chemicals are stored or mixed with incompatible substances;
- The dangers of chemical contact and chemical ingestion
- The environmental hazards that are created when dangerous chemicals are integrated into a public or private water system;
- The harmful outcome of exposure to chemical emissions and fumes
Every workplace should have proper ventilation to keep the area free of buildup chemical fumes or emissions. Safety measures include making sure every drum lid containing chemicals, materials, toxins or dyes are covered and secured completely. The step is important because opened drums can be extremely hazardous in a work environment and are at risk for spilling its contents.
Additional measures include maintaining a clean workspace, never allowing drink or food in the work areas, thorough cleaning and hosing down every washable floor in the workplace.
Chicago Area Chemical Plant Worker Wages
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics 2016 statistics concerning the employment statistics of the previous year, 1210 Chemical Plant Workers were working in the Chicago, Naperville and Arlington Heights metropolitan area. On average, Chemical Plant Workers in northeastern Illinois earn $48,650 every year (mean wage), which is $23.39 per hour. The wage is significantly higher than the national averages. See Chart
Chemical Plant Work-Related Deaths
Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Illinois regulatory agencies conduct thorough investigations on accidents occurring in a work environment that resulted in injuries and death. For decades, workers handling hazardous chemicals and dangerous materials have been victims of poor safety practices and negligence of the company owner and managerial staff at providing adequate training to safeguard the health and well-being of every employee. Even with safety protocols and procedures in place, there are still sad cases of employees that have died working in dangerous environments.
- Case 1: May 25, 2017 – An Employee Dies after Inhaling Chemical Vapors. At approximately 5:00 AM, a worker “was cleaning a kitchen hood using a degreaser and other cleaning agents." According to co-workers at the scene, “at the end of [the employee’s work schedule], the worker felt dizzy and with shortness of breath." EMT was called to the job site to provide care. However, the worker succumbed to his injuries and “died on the way to the hospital. The employer was not at the site at the time of the incident."
- Case 2: May 24, 2017 – Tank Explosion Kills Two Workers and Hospitalizes Another. At approximately 10:48 AM to employees and the owner of the company “were in the process of neutralizing an empty MP85 odorant tank [that had] previously been filled with tertiary butyl mercaptan. The odorant tank was filled with 6% sodium hypochlorite solution." The tank exploded while setting up the equipment to drain the odorant tank. One employee and the owner “were standing at the base of the tank while the other employee was standing on a ladder." Both the owner and the first employee “received fatal injuries, and the other employee was ‘lift-flighted’ to the hospital." Local authorities pronounced the two workers “dead at the scene."
We Can Help You with Your Compensation Claim
Our lawyers help injured Chemical Plant Workers recover the compensation they are entitled to receive under the IL Worker’s Compensation Act and through civil lawsuits. Call us now for a Free Case Review.
If you retain our occupational injury law firm, our team of legal experts can ensure your family receives adequate compensation to recover financially from your damages fully. In addition to assisting you with your Worker’s Compensation benefits, we will review your case to determine if other parties are also at fault and required to pay you additional funds.
A seasoned lawyer could assist your family in successfully resolving your monetary compensation claim against the nursing staff and administration. Our law firm working on your behalf can handle every aspect of the case to ensure the appropriate documentation is filed before the statute of limitations expires.
Contact A Chemical Plant Workers Compensation & Injury Law Firm
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