How to file a workers’ comp claim for financial compensation
Working with chemicals often wreaks havoc on a person’s health. Even if your job is considered one of the more risky or dangerous professions, it’s still your employer’s responsibility to maintain safe working conditions for you in order to prevent injuries and illnesses from chemical exposure. When disaster strikes in an accident or the long-term effects of exposure start to kick in, Georgia workers may pursue workers’ compensation in order to cover your lost wages and extensive medical bills.
What workers are at risk for chemical exposure?
Many times, people falsely assume that injuries and illnesses from chemical exposure only affect those in dangerous professions, such as those who work on an oil rig or in a lab with hazardous materials. Many other careers are at risk for health problems due to chemical exposure, however, and the highest risks affect the following professions:
- Factory workers
- Agricultural workers and farmers
- Maintenance personnel
Examples of chemical hazards in the workplace
Though the above are the most at-risk professions, the chances of chemical exposure injuries and illnesses can occur whenever someone has prolonged or extensive exposure to the following chemicals:
- Vinyl Chloride
- Certain welding materials
- Fumes associated with the production of plastic
It’s often hard to know if you’re suffering from exposure to some of the above chemicals. In order to get a proper diagnosis, be sure to explain your specific working conditions and tasks when getting checked by your primary care physician or other medical professional.
Injuries and illnesses from chemical exposure
The injuries and illnesses that result from chemical exposure vary in severity and effect, depending on the type and length of exposure.
Possible injuries and illnesses include:
- Brain damage - Prolonged exposure to certain chemicals has been linked to neurological damage.
- Burns - When dangerous chemicals make contact with the skin, workers can suffer from serious burns.
- Rashes and other skin irritations
- Cancer and leukemia
- Birth defects - Pregnant mothers who are exposed to dangerous chemicals may have a child born with birth defects.
- Asthma and other disorders associated with difficulty breathing
- Damage to your vision and blindness
- Neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s Disease
- Headaches, nausea, dizziness and eye and skin irritation – Even with only limited exposure, many workers report more minor problems such as headaches and irritation.
Causes of illnesses and injuries from chemical exposure
Mere exposure to some of the hazardous chemicals listed above can affect your health. Sometimes a small spill is enough to cause an injury. Other illnesses and injuries, however, come from the negligent actions of your employer. Some acts of negligence that lead to accidents include:
- Inadequate ventilation
- Inadequate or insufficient personal protective equipment
- Improper handling of the chemicals
- Insufficient training
- Poor storage of the materials
- Defective containers or other storage equipment
Chemical exposure may cause health effects over the long-term or result in immediate injuries from an accident. If there is a spill or other cause of accidental exposure, be sure to alert your employer. Georgia law only awards workers’ compensation if the employer received notice of the incident within 30 days.
What benefits can I receive for my claim?
The extent of a worker’s injuries and illnesses can vary greatly in chemical exposures cases. Depending on the chemical involved and the extent of the exposure, the health effects may be temporary or life-threatening. In all cases, however, if you can establish that your health was affected by your job, your workers’ compensation settlement should cover your medical bills and lost wages.
Georgia breaks down their workers’ comp benefits into four categories:
- Temporary total disability (TTD): temporary but total disability, unable to work
- Temporary partial disability (TPD): return to work with modified job duties, reduced hours and wages
- Permanent partial disability (PPD): permanent loss of function of a body part or bodily system; treating physician will assign a percentage of permanent impairment, which affects benefits
- Permanent total disability (PTD): totally and permanently disabled; benefits based on impairment rating system
Don’t assume you know what option is best for you as many factors contribute to the financial assistance you receive. Consult a Georgia workers’ comp lawyer to see which category best applies to your injury.
Can I sue my employer for my illness or injury from chemical exposure?
The state of Georgia does its best to protect both the employer and employee in workplace accidents. An employee may not sue his or her employer for accidents on the job, but Georgia is also a no-fault state for workplace accidents. Thus, even if an employee was partly to blame for the accident, he or she is still entitled to workers’ compensation.
When an accident takes place in a manufacturing facility, factory, plant or other industrial setting, the only lawsuits that are permitted are those suing third parties. If, for example, you were injured by a faulty product or defective equipment, you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against the manufacturer or other responsible party.
In chemical exposure cases, you may be able to sue a manufacturer if the container of chemicals was faulty or the chemicals were defective in any way. Because chemical exposure workers’ compensation claims can be more complicated than other cases, we encourage you to find an experienced workers’ comp attorney to explain the potential liability and damages in your case.
Let OSHA also help fight for your rights
The law requires employers to provide their employees with safe and healthful workplaces. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration of the US Department of Labor (OSHA) also prohibits employers from retaliating against employees for exercising their rights under the law. For more information see www.whistleblowers.gov for more information on workers' rights.
If you have questions or concerns about your work site, find your regional or area OSHA office through the OSHA Offices by State webpage or call 1-800-321-OSHA (6742).
It’s important to take these extra steps with OSHA in order to prevent other workers from being injured due to errors or corruption in the workplace.