The Occupational Safety and Health Administration sets permissible exposure levels for substances that workers can be exposed to on-the-job. The Environmental Protection Agency sets permissible exposure levels affecting how much of a given substance the general public can be exposed to. Safety News Alert recently provided details on new reports showing that the EPA standards are much stricter than the OSHA standards and that the general public is much better protected than workers when it comes to exposure to hazardous chemicals.
When an employee is exposed to hazardous chemicals, this exposure can happen every day for years on end and the worker may be unable to escape the dangers without giving up his job. Employers need to ensure they are not putting their workers at serious risk of life-threatening illnesses or death. If a worker is exposed to toxins on-the-job and gets sick as a result of this exposure, the employee should speak with an Atlanta workplace illness lawyer about options for making a claim for benefits. Workers’ comp should cover medical costs and other losses caused by the exposure.
Inadequate Workplace Protections Lead to Atlanta Workplace Illnesses
OSHA has referred to its own regulations for permissible exposure limits as outdated, which is clearly true since the agency has only added one rule related to chemical exposure since the limits initially established by the Occupational Safety and Health Act in 1971. Although the agency tried to add 164 new substances to its list in 1989, the new regulations on permissible exposure limits were overturned by the court.
Even among the chemicals on the list, the EPA provides significantly better protection than OSHA. In fact, limits set by the EPA for exposure to specific chemicals are between 10 times and 1,000 times more protective than OSHA limits for the same toxins. This has led to safety researchers lamenting that: “Risks of cancer and other illnesses considered acceptable at a workplace wouldn’t be tolerated outside of it.”
OSHA has tried to regulate toxic exposure, but there is a burdensome rule-making process that prevents the agency from taking action. OSHA also has faced lawsuits from various industries when it has tried to move forward with new permissible exposure limits in the past.
OSHA is also hamstrung in its protection of workers by other factors as well. For example, OSHA has 15 percent fewer workers than the agency had on its payroll 30 years ago while the staff of the Environmental Protection Agency has grown by 24 percent. Investigations into health hazards and toxic exposure are much more time consuming than other types of safety inspections, and the overworked and understaffed OSHA does not have the manpower to keep up with demand. The agency conducts four times as many inspections for safety as it does for health, which means the chances of an organization being investigated for possible toxic exposure is very low.
All of this has a major cost for workers, as estimates suggest more than 50,000 people are killed and 190,000 made sick each year due to being exposed to on-the-job toxins. When a worker does get sick or pass away because of things he was exposed to at work, it is very important for the employee or his family to get the work injury benefits the law should provide.
The Atlanta workers’ compensation lawyers at Sammons & Carpenter, P.C. can represent you after an illness caused by toxic exposure. Call today at (404) 814-8949 or contact us online to schedule your free consultation.