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Hazardous toxin and chemical exposure at the workplace

Each day, thousands of people are exposed to occupational toxins and chemicals at their jobs. Connecticut employers and their employees should be aware of these toxins and know how to keep safe around them.

Employers have a legal responsibility to inform their employees about hazardous toxins or chemicals that are present. They can refer their employees to Material Safety Data Sheets, which explain the proper procedures for working with or handling certain substances. The sheets also provide useful information including the names of certain toxic chemicals and the products that contain them, leak and spill procedures, protective equipment, disposal, storage, reactivity, first aid, health effects, toxicity and physical data. Employees can also learn about workplace toxic substances by being aware of warning signs posted in work areas where there is poor ventilation or reading warning labels on toxic product shipping boxes.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has several tips for employees who are exposed to on-the-job toxins that could help reduce or prevent the dangers. One tip is to substitute a toxic material, hazardous process or piece of equipment with a comparable product that is safer. Hazards can further be controlled via isolation, which is done by using a barrier or by placing a limiter between an employee and the hazard. Electrical insulation, acoustical containment, machine guards, remote controlled equipment and glove boxes are some examples of these products. Occupational hazardous airborne substances can be reduced and controlled through proper methods of ventilation, preventive maintenance programs and adjusting employees' work schedules. Personal protective equipment should also be available to keep employees safe.

Most employers are required to carry workers' compensation insurance for employees who suffer on-the-job injuries, such as a chemical or toxic exposure. An attorney could be of assistance in helping an affected worker file a claim for benefits.

Source: FindLaw, "Toxic Exposure in the Workplace", June 13, 2017

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