Exposure to Toxins Can Cause Injuries to Pennsylvania Workers
There are many different types of illnesses and injuries that could entitle an employee to worker’s compensation benefits. Many workers fail to realize that they could potentially receive benefits even if there isn't one single traumatic incident. Exposure to toxins in the workplace is an example of a long-term injury, and a worker suffering from the effects should apply for workers' comp if their illness renders them unable to work.
Employees who are hurt on-the-job have the right to worker’s compensation coverage for all their workplace illnesses and injuries.
The Many Types of Workplace Toxins
Workers in many different fields face the risk of exposure to toxins. The Harvard Gazette reports on a study conducted by researchers from Harvard and MIT, who found that firefighters were exposed to greater numbers of exhaust toxins in older stations where the building design allowed for free air flow between the truck bays and living quarters. One Boston Deputy fire chief told the Gazette that cancer is a serious and well-known occupational hazard to firefighters. Bloomberg reports on a study of female workers in a semiconductor plant in Massachusetts. The women – who regularly worked with dangerous chemicals – were found to have miscarriages at twice the expected rate. And in Canada, former workers at a General Electric plant were found to have been exposed to toxins such as asbestos and benzene for years. The Peterborough Examiner reports that plant workers were exposed to more than three thousand toxins between 1945 and 2000, with a number of those substances are either known or suspected carcinogens (toxins which cause cancer).
Employees Have Many Options for Reporting Workplace Illnesses
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration helps regulate and enforce federal workplace safety laws. They have specific programs and requirements for worker education and training about chemical hazards and toxic substances in the workplace. Employees may also report unsafe working conditions to OSHA.
While reporting violations of safety laws can make the workplace safer for future employees, it doesn't help workers who have already suffered personal injuries and losses. These workers are entitled to worker’s compensation coverage. If the employer does not carry worker’s compensation coverage, it is guilty of a separate legal violation entirely, and the employee has the right to sue the company. Employees can also sue when worker’s compensation does not fully compensate the full value of their losses. This can include medical bills, pain and suffering, future medical expenses, loss of future income, and other financial losses which are directly attributable to their workplace illness.
One unique case out of South Korea demonstrates the power of the courts in vindicating workplace illness rights. A Samsung employee who developed multiple sclerosis at the age of twenty-one was found to have a disease caused by her occupation.
CBS News reports that the Supreme Court of South Korea overturned a lower court’s decision to allow Samsung and the Labor Ministry to withhold documentation on the grounds that it contained trade secrets. The Supreme Court ruled that the inadequate government investigation should not be construed against the worker. The decision paves the way for other ill workers in the technology sector to access legal remedies for their occupational illnesses.
An experienced Pennsylvania worker’s compensation attorney will help to ensure that employees receive the compensation to which they are entitled.