Toxic chemical exposure is a work hazard that many employees face, and mercury is one of the more toxic chemicals in the workplace.
The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) bluntly states, “Exposure to mercury – even small amounts – may cause serious health problems.”
Symptoms of Toxic Mercury Exposure
Workers exposed to mercury may suffer both temporary and permanent consequences. Symptoms of toxic mercury exposure may include:
- Memory loss
- Neurological impairment
- Gum damage
- Skin damage
- Pins and Needles feeling
Case Study Demonstrates Hazards
In February 2016, employees of a hazardous materials remediation contractor complained to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) about mercury exposure and a lack of personal protective equipment. The workers were doing mercury removal work at a state Superfund site involving a General Electric power and water main plant in Schenectady, New York.
The work was part of a $45 million renovation project. The workers were working in Building 5 of the GE campus allegedly without appropriate protective equipment or ventilation as they worked to remove liquid mercury and mercury-contaminated soil and water from the structure.
Mercury Exposure Confirmed
When OSHA inspectors arrived on March 1, 2016, they found a number of workers had absorbed or inhaled excessive levels of liquid mercury and/or mercury vapor worker symptoms were consistent with respiratory mercury exposure. The findings were contained in an OSHA regional news release dated August 3, 2016.
The conditions that OSHA inspectors discovered resulted in the issuance of citations for one willful and 13 serious violations of workplace health and safety standards. Proposed fines total $142,200. The Times Union reports that the contractor facing the proposed OSHA fines no longer works at the site.
Injury due to toxic chemical exposure typically qualifies an employee for workers comp benefits. In some cases, workers qualify for partial or full disability benefits.
If you or a family member suffers toxic chemical exposure while on the job, it is possible to review the matter with an attorney familiar with workers compensation claims. Our firm provides this consultation free of charge. To learn more, please contact us.