When people think of chlorine, the first thing that comes to mind is usually swimming pools. But chlorine is actually an extremely toxic – potentially deadly – substance. In fact, the gas produced by chlorine is so deadly that it was used during WWI as a chemical weapon. Although most chlorine-related injuries are minor burns or skin irritations, more serious injuries occur every year. Chlorine gas can cause fatal explosions, and even short-term exposure can result in life-threatening respiratory complications.
A fatal chlorine accident occurred in 2015, when an unmarked drum of chlorine gas was crushed. Eight Pacific Steel and Recycling employees were injured at the Spokane, Washington facility. One of those workers died. In 2017, one of the injured employees filed a lawsuit. Felix Shuck suffered a fifty percent reduction in lung capacity, as well as multiple other injuries that prevented him from continuing to work. However, Shuck is suing the company that delivered the chlorine gas, not his employer. Ibex Construction is being sued for negligence for allegedly hiring a subcontractor whose failure to label the drum resulted in the fatal accident.
But Pacific Steel and Recycling didn’t get away unscathed; a government agency fined the company for failure to follow certain procedures. For example, they failed to ensure that the gas drum was empty prior to accepting it, and they stripped the drum of its pressure gauges, which may have contributed to the accident. A Boston work injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured in an accident involving toxic substances or fumes.
How to Avoid Injuries Related to Toxic Substances
If you must work around toxic substances, the following practices can dramatically reduce your risk of serious injury or death.
- Substitute an existing substance, process, or equipment with a less hazardous alternative.
- Isolate the hazard with an appropriate barrier or limiter, such as machine guards, remote-controlled equipment, and acoustical containment.
- Ventilate the work environment through one of two methods – dilution of the substance by mixing with uncontaminated air, or the capture and removal of the substance at the source.
- Change operating practices to reduce exposure to chemical hazards. This can be done by adjusting work schedules, limiting access to high-risk areas, and establishing preventive maintenance programs.
- Use personal protection equipment, such as ventilators, masks, and protective clothing.
Who is Liable for Injuries Caused by Workplace Exposure to Toxic Substances?
Work-related injuries are generally covered by workers’ compensation, but individuals may recover additional damages if negligence contributed to the accident, as in the case above. Chlorine gas is one type of toxic substance, but there are many others, including asbestos. Asbestos is one of the deadliest toxic substances in the history of workplace toxic substances. According to the World Heath Organization more than 100,000 people die annually due to asbestos-related lung cancer, such as mesothelioma and asbestosis. In many cases, multiple parties may be liable for injuries caused by workplace exposure to toxic substances, including contractors (as in the case above), the original manufacturer, and the employer. A MA work injury lawyer can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured on the job due to another’s negligence. Continue reading