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Exposure to Harmful Substances or Environments a Top Cause of Workplace Injuries in 2011

Each year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) releases data on the number of fatal injuries that occur in workplaces throughout the United States. Our Atlanta workers’ compensation attorneys have been taking a look at some of the top causes of injuries, including fall injuries and contact with objects and equipment.

The BLS data on Fatal Occupational Injuries By Event or Exposure for 2011 also shows another common cause of workplace injuries — exposure to harmful substances or environments. This is a broad category of accidents that cover several common types of substances or environments that a worker may be exposed to and that may cause his death. 1381198_danger_sign.jpg

Exposure to Harmful Substances or Environments as a Cause of Workplace Injury
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, exposure to harmful substances or environments was the cause of 401 out of the total 4,609 workplace injuries in 2011. This means that about 9 percent of workers who died did so as a result of being exposed to something dangerous.

There were a variety of different harmful substances and environments that caused these workplace deaths. These included:

  • Exposure to electricity, which was the cause of 171 workplace deaths. When a worker is exposed to electricity, electrocution can result. The electricity can do damage to the nerves, stop the heart or cause severe burns. Exposure to electric current is extremely dangerous and very likely to cause death.
  • Exposure to temperature extremes, which was the cause of 61 workplace deaths. This can involve both a worker being burned to death or being frozen to death. Exposure to temperature extremes often causes death when a worker becomes trapped where he shouldn’t be.
  • Exposure to other harmful substances, which caused 130 workplace deaths. This can range from poisons to chemicals to dangerous fumes. The exposure may occur as a result of the substance being inhaled or being absorbed through the worker’s skin.
  • Inhalation of harmful substances, which was the cause of 57 of the workplace deaths that resulted from exposure to other harmful substances. When a worker inhales dangerous or toxic chemicals, these chemicals can poison him and result in death.

Workers in any industry could experience these types of exposure injuries and deaths. Those in the construction industry, working in industrial industries or working in a manufacturing environment may be at greater risk than those in an office or retail environment. However, even in these environments, a worker could be exposed to an electrical short, locked in a walk-in freezer or otherwise put into a risky situation where exposure to a harmful substance could result in death.

Worker Protection Rules
OSHA has guidelines in place that are intended to prevent workers from being injured by exposure to harmful substances or environments. For example, hazard zones must be carefully labeled in order to alert workers of the danger. If workers are working with chemicals in the workplace, OSHA requires signs and warnings be posted.

When OSHA guidelines aren’t followed, the risk of injury increases. In any case, however, when a worker is injured or killed as a result of exposure to harmful substances or environments, the worker may be able to make a workers’ compensation claim to obtain coverage of medical bills and other costs.

If you or a loved one has been injured on the job, contact J. Franklin Burns, P.C., to speak with an experienced attorney. For a free consultation call 1-404-303-7770 today.

Additional Resources:

Georgia Work Injuries: Government Releases Accident & Illness Stats for 2011, Georgia Workers’ Compensation Attorney Blog, November 7, 2012