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Five Thing to do if You Were Exposed to a Toxic Chemical at Work

Louisiana has more than 300 facilities involved in chemical process production. The chemical processes that happen in Louisiana contribute to the manufacturing of household goods, pharmaceuticals, plastics, petrochemicals, and more. With so much chemical production in Louisiana, it’s unfortunately not uncommon for workers to be exposed to toxic substances. Chemical exposure is not just limited to the manufacturing facilities. There are countless other workers who come in contact with potentially hazardous chemicals in the medical field, testing laboratories, or other work environments. If you are exposed to a toxic chemical at work, there are things that you should do

Evacuate the Area Immediately

All non-essential personnel should be removed from the area to prevent any further exposure. If a hazardous chemical is still being discharged, the system needs to be shut down or contained by qualified personnel if it can be done safely. 

Clean Up

Before beginning work in any environment in which toxic chemical exposure is possible, all employees should be familiar with the location and operation of the safety showers and eye wash stations.

When using the showers
Remove all contaminated clothing, including your shoes;
Flush all exposed areas thoroughly for at least 15 minutes;
Protect the eyes or other unexposed body parts from cross contamination;
Seek medical attention after washing all affected areas for 15 minutes and call 911 or go to the nearest emergency care facility.
When using eye wash stations:
Flush eyes for at least 15 minutes as soon as possible;
Use your hands to hold your eyelids open while rotating your eyeballs in all directions;
Seek medical attention after washing all affected areas for 15 minutes and call 911 or go to the nearest emergency care facility.
Let Your Supervisor Know

The first reason to let your supervisor know is that someone may need to stop whatever is causing the exposure. A valve may need to be shut off or other action may need to be taken to contain the hazardous chemical. But another very important reason to let your supervisor know is that under Louisiana Worker’s Compensation laws you are required to give your employer notice of your injuries. The failure to timely notify your employer can damage claims you may have as a result of the exposure.

Seek Medical Treatment

After being exposed to a toxic chemical it is not only important that you seek treatment, but also that you seek the right kind of treatment. Your employer will usually send you to the “company doctor”. While this doctor or clinic does not actually work for your company, they often get most if not all of their business from companies like your employer. This can create an incentive for the health care provider to minimize the impact of your injury.

The doctor or clinic that you employer originally sends you to may also not be best suited to treat your injuries. You may want to see a dermatologist following a skin exposure or a pulmonologist if your exposure was to fumes or vapors that can cause lung damage. The failure to timely seek medical treatment and follow your doctor’s advice can also lead insurance adjusters or jurors to the conclusion that you must not have really been injured that badly.

Request Copies of the Safety Data Sheets

The OSHA Hazard Communication Standard requires chemical manufacturers, distributors, or importers to provide Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) for each hazardous chemical to communicate information on the hazard it presents. The SDS includes information about the properties of each chemical; the physical, health, and environmental health hazards; protective measures; and safety precautions for handling, storing, and transporting the chemical. Getting the SDS is important so that you can let your doctor know exactly what you were exposed to so you can get the right type of treatment for that exposure. The type of treatment you need will depend on the chemical you were exposed to and how you were exposed. Treatment for contact to your skin would likely be different than treatment for a chemical that was ingested and the SDS will information that your health care providers need to make the best decisions about the type of treatment you need. 

Speak with the Right Attorney

If you’ve been exposed to a hazardous chemical while at work in Louisiana, you should also speak with an attorney about what rights you have. This is a more specialized area of law and your average car wreck lawyer may not be familiar with the laws and regulations that apply to your claims. At Big River Trial Attorneys we’ve handled cases involving chemical exposures and other industrial accidents and we’re available to speak with you about the types of claims you may have. If you would like to schedule a free and confidential consultation, give us a call at (225) 963-9638 or click here to contact a member of our staff. 

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