Posted by on Apr 12, 2016 in Worker Injuries | 0 comments

In 1970, the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) was enacted by the US Congress, making it the first federal law that is aimed at ensuring safety of all workers and safety in all workplaces. This task, as specifically defined by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is geared towards making sure that “employers provide their workers a place of employment free from recognized hazards to safety and health, such as exposure to toxic chemicals, excessive noise levels, mechanical dangers, heat or cold stress, or unsanitary conditions”.

The passing into law of the OSH Act was the federal government’s response to the widespread occurrences of workplace accidents that continuously injured millions of workers and took thousands of lives. But while OSH Act’s main purpose was enacting laws, enforcement of these laws and the setting of workplace health and safety standards were made the tasks of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) which the OSH Act established in 1971.

Since it came into existence, OSHA, with the help of State and local governments, has worked to significantly reduce the number of deaths and injuries in the workplace. Based on records from the US Department of Labor, because of OSHA, the average 38 daily work-related deaths in the 1970s is down to 13 a day (in 2014). Even work-related injuries which, in the 1970s, was at 10.9 incidents per 100 workers, is now down to 3.2 per 100 workers.

Injuries and deaths, however, are not only caused by dangerous tools, machineries, large and heavy equipment, snarled wires, or any other thing that would increase risk of accident (regardless of the type of workplace where workers perform their job). According to OSHA, there are also hazardous substances which can develop in workers a chronic, deadly disease that can keep them out of work and require continuous medical treatment.

More than 13 million workers in the US, as stated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), are affected by toxic substances and chemical hazards. One example of these hazardous substances is silica or crystalline silica, a very common mineral and a basic component of granite and sand. Silica has caused in millions of workers the development of pulmonary tuberculosis, lung cancer or silicosis, a serious lung disease. Those especially affected are foundry workers, miners and sandblasters.

Many substances, besides causing internal injuries due to inhalation of fumes, can also cause occupational skin diseases (OSD), like skin cancer, skin infection, irritant contact dermatitis, allergic contact dermatitis or other types of skin diseases. OSDs are, actually, the second most common type of work-related diseases among those whose line of work fall under construction, agriculture, printing or lithography, painting, cleaning, cosmetology,  mechanics, health care and food service.

As explained in the website of the Williams Kherkher law firm, taking reasonable safety precautions and making sure that workers and visitors are kept out of danger are part of a company’s responsibilities. This means that if an accident occurs due to an employer’s negligence (regardless of the cause of the accident: a faulty equipment, a dangerous condition, poor decisions by management or co-workers, or by exposure to dangerous substances), the injured will have the right to seek compensation for his or her injuries.

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