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What Happens After a Construction Site Chemical Accident?

Hazardous chemicals are among the most significant risks construction workers face. As such, knowing how to prevent and respond to toxic chemical exposure when the time is right is key to minimizing work site losses and injuries. Employers are responsible for having effective spill control plans and appropriate protective equipment in place for all employees working in areas where hazardous chemicals exist.

The spill control plans must match the requirements set forth by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA). If you are routinely exposed to hazardous chemicals while on the job, you need to know several important things.

How Chemical Exposure Occurs

Exposure to hazardous chemicals may occur in a variety of ways. People can be exposed by inhaling or ingesting chemicals, by having chemicals enter their eyes or direct skin contact.

Chemicals that are commonly found on construction sites can be flammable, corrosive, and poisonous. Whether spilled, released as fumes or gas, sprayed, or otherwise disbursed, certain chemicals may result in severe burns, vision loss, respiratory damage, and more.

How Companies Can Mitigate Exposure-Related Damages

Companies that work with, store, and ship hazardous chemicals should have several clear hazard-specific protocols in place for mitigating injuries and loss after exposure. This is known as a spill response plan, which can include evacuating the area, administering necessary first aid, and taking steps to stop the spill.

A good spill-response plan will include specific individuals in charge of ensuring that each mitigation step is taken. However, all people working close to hazardous chemicals must have comprehensive training to handle them and address exposure events.  

For each chemical substance that a person might come in contact with, various actions must be taken as part of administering first aid, performing the cleanup, and taking other emergency actions.

These issues should be addressed during employee trainings. Moreover, written copies should be kept at or near the hazardous work area. Spill kits should also be readily available to guide people through the mitigation and first aid process and provide any necessary, hazard-specific first aid materials.

Strategies for Mitigating Facility Damage and Injuries

Part of a company's chemical response protocol are measures that are taken to prevent further harm to the facility itself. But these measures should never take precedence over human life. Workers have the first responsibility of making sure that they are safe.

Managers and team leaders should direct employees away from the affected area to prioritize their well-being, rather than the integrity of inventories and other assets.

Certain mitigation strategies for preventing further facility damage are also essential for protecting people in the area. It is undoubtedly the case for chemicals and other agents that are highly flammable or explosive.

Shut-off valves should be turned off and the area duly contained. Anyone close to the worksite must be notified even if they are not at risk of being exposed within a contained area.

Those who came in direct contact with chemicals or fumes should:

  • Use eyewash stations.
  • Remove all contaminated clothing.
  • Call 9-1-1 and request first responders.
  • Enter a safety shower.

Exposure to specific chemicals might come with delayed effects workers are not even aware of. After a toxic chemical exposure or dangerous spill, all the accident details should be shared with emergency first responders as needed.

The Immediate and Long-Term Dangers of Chemical Exposure

Among some of the various chemical hazards that employees might encounter while working on a construction site are:

  • Acids
  • Chemical solvents
  • Pesticides
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Gas
  • Industrial cleaning agents.

When working in confined spaces, chemical exposure can be extremely detrimental to human health, especially when prolonged. There are countless instances in which various physical agents and atmospheric factors have harmed construction workers. Many workers die each year for these same reasons.

Although chemical burns, eye injuries, and inhalation-related injuries are among the most common injuries sustained due to chemical exposure, these events can also negatively affect a person's nervous system health.

Nerve and neurological damages can be sustained due to any form of prolonged contact with certain chemicals. This includes swallowing, skin or eye contact, and inhalation.

Conclusion

Exposure to hazardous chemicals can have a lasting impact on construction workers, mainly when exposure events aren't adequately mitigated. From debilitating and disfiguring injuries to long-term nerve and neurological damage, these events can be devastating. If you've been harmed as the result of chemicals that you've encountered while on the job, filing a claim could help you get the compensation you need and deserve.

It would also be best if you learned more about the responsibilities of companies that maintain, transport, or handle hazardous chemicals on construction sites before working with dangerous substances. And if a construction site operator tries to evade these responsibilities, consider talking to a construction accident lawyer. (Source: https://www.dandalaw.com/areas-we-serve/new-york-ny/construction-accident-lawyer/)

 
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