Buffalo Wild Wings case an example of dangers of chemical exposure
An employee’s death provides an opportunity to review how employers should keep workers safe from toxic chemicals.
Exposure to toxic chemicals can lead to serious, and sometimes deadly, injuries. There are certain situations that such exposures may not come as a surprise, certain industries that we expect workers to come in contact with these dangers. But there are others that may come as a shock – such as the recent case involving an employee at Buffalo Wild Wings. The worker received fatal injuries after inhaling toxic fumes of a chemical generally used for cleaning. The chemical exposure was so danger that ten other people required treatment at a local hospital.
Employers are required to keep employees safe from toxic chemicals in the workplace
It is not uncommon for workers to face exposure to chemicals within the workplace. This is true both in industries were such encounters may be expected like agriculture and construction as well as those where they may not, like positions in the administrative and educational fields. To better ensure exposure to these toxins does not result in injury, the United States Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires employers to identify and evaluate the potential exposure of toxins within the workplace and take steps to protect employees from injury.
One option is to display a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS). This form generally provides information about any toxins an employee may come in contact with during their workday, an explanation of the safest way to handle these chemicals and procedures to follow if exposed to the chemical.
The agency also provides guidance for employers on how to control exposure. This includes:
· Personal protective equipment. The agency recommends employers provide employees with wearable equipment when needed. Protective clothing, gloves and eye protection are common examples.
· Administrative and work practice controls. In some cases, employers can reduce the danger that comes with exposure by rotating job assignments. This can help minimize the amount of exposure for each worker and can reduce the risk of overexposure.
· Engineering controls. Changes to the workplace can also help. could help reduce exposure. Examples include adding the use of ventilation and fume hoods.
· Elimination or substitution. OSHA also recommends employers review any work process that results in potentially dangerous exposure to see if an alternate method is available that will minimize contact to the toxic substance. If no other option works, the agency recommends eliminating use of the substance and finding another option.
Unfortunately, not every employer follows these guidelines. A failure to follow these recommendations is not only illegal, but dangerous. Those who are injured while on-the-job due to exposure to toxic chemicals have options. This is true even if the workplace followed the guidelines. An attorney experienced in workplace injuries can review your case and discuss your options.