Exposure to hazardous materials in the workplace can have serious health consequences for employees. In California, various laws and regulations are designed to protect workers from these dangers. Understanding your rights and the legal protections available is crucial for maintaining a safe work environment.

If you believe you have been exposed to hazardous materials at work, contact PLBH at (800) 435-7542 for expert legal advice and assistance.

Understanding Hazardous Materials

What Constitutes Hazardous Materials?

Hazardous materials are substances that can pose a risk to health, safety, or property. They include chemicals, biological agents, radioactive materials, and other substances that can cause harm if not properly managed. Common hazardous materials in workplaces include:

  • Asbestos
  • Lead
  • Solvents
  • Pesticides
  • Heavy metals

Health Risks

Exposure to hazardous materials can lead to various health issues, including:

  • Respiratory problems
  • Skin irritation
  • Chemical burns
  • Long-term diseases like cancer
  • Reproductive issues

Legal Framework for Protection

Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA)

The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) sets standards to ensure safe and healthy working conditions. Under OSHA, employers are required to:

  • Provide a workplace free from serious recognized hazards.
  • Comply with OSHA standards.
  • Ensure employees have and use safe tools and equipment.

California Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Cal/OSHA)

California has its own state-specific agency, Cal/OSHA, which enforces occupational safety and health standards. Cal/OSHA regulations are often more stringent than federal OSHA standards. Key responsibilities of Cal/OSHA include:

  • Conducting workplace inspections.
  • Investigating complaints about unsafe conditions.
  • Issuing citations and penalties for non-compliance.

Employer Responsibilities

Hazard Communication Standard

Employers must adhere to the Hazard Communication Standard, which requires them to inform employees about hazardous chemicals in the workplace. This includes:

  • Proper labeling of hazardous materials.
  • Providing Safety Data Sheets (SDS) for each hazardous chemical.
  • Offering training programs on the risks and safe handling of hazardous materials.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Employers are required to provide appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) to employees who work with hazardous materials. This can include:

  • Gloves
  • Respirators
  • Eye protection
  • Protective clothing

Exposure Monitoring and Medical Examinations

Employers must regularly monitor employee exposure to hazardous substances and provide medical examinations when necessary. This helps in early detection and prevention of health issues related to hazardous material exposure.

Employee Rights

Right to Know

Employees have the right to know about the hazardous materials they may be exposed to in the workplace. This includes access to Safety Data Sheets and information on how to protect themselves from exposure.

Right to Refuse Unsafe Work

If an employee believes they are being asked to work in unsafe conditions involving hazardous materials, they have the right to refuse to perform the work. Employers cannot retaliate against employees for exercising this right.

Filing Complaints

Employees can file complaints with Cal/OSHA if they believe their employer is not following safety regulations. Complaints can be made confidentially, and employees are protected from retaliation for reporting unsafe conditions.

Legal Recourse for Exposure

Workers’ Compensation

Workers who suffer from illnesses or injuries due to exposure to hazardous materials may be eligible for workers’ compensation. This can cover medical expenses, lost wages, and disability benefits.

Personal Injury Claims

In some cases, employees may be able to file personal injury claims against third parties responsible for their exposure to hazardous materials. This can provide additional compensation beyond what is available through workers’ compensation.

Seeking Legal Assistance

Navigating the complexities of workplace safety laws and seeking compensation for exposure-related injuries can be challenging. At PLBH, our experienced attorneys can help you:

  • Understand your rights and the protections available.
  • File workers’ compensation claims.
  • Pursue personal injury lawsuits if applicable.

If you have been exposed to hazardous materials at work, contact PLBH at (800) 435-7542 for a free consultation. Our dedicated attorneys are here to help you secure the compensation and protection you deserve.