Ever heard the old saying “better living through chemistry”? Industrial chemicals have an important function, but they are often hazardous to human health. Producing, handling or using these substances could cause serious illness, burns or other trauma, unless the employer follows the law and makes workplace safety a priority.
Among the possible consequences of exposure to hazardous chemicals and similar substances include cancer, irritation, sensitization, fires and chemical burns. To minimize the risk of these workplace injuries occurring, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has several regulations in place that employers must follow.
For example, OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard requires workplaces where toxic chemicals are present to properly inform their employees of the risks associated with these substances. Manufacturers and importers must evaluate the hazards of the relevant chemicals and create labels and safety danger sheets for their workforce who is exposed, and train them on those risks as well as what to do to protect themselves.
Working with chemicals generally means that some of the stuff will get into the air. Inhaling too much could cause serious health problems. OSHA has established “permissible exposure limits,” or PELs, for maximum levels that workers can be exposed. Most PELs are based on an eight-hour time-weighted average, though OSHA also has ceiling and peak limits.
Besides these federal regulations, state agencies may also contribute rules to limit workplace chemical exposure. These regulations may be stronger than the federal version, or they may follow OSHA’s guidelines.
Despite these rules, chemical exposure still happens at many workplaces, and workers become terribly ill or hurt. They may be out of work for a long time recovering.