Dangerous chemicals are more common than one might expect. Many businesses work with them. From ordinary materials like the cleaning bleach or gasoline, to more exotic industrial chemicals, exposure can cause serious injuries or even diseases like cancer and respiratory failure. Employees who are injured by exposure to chemicals at work should file a workers’ compensation claim.
Workplace safety, chemicals, and liability
Most Nevada employers who handle dangerous materials are subject to a broad range of safety regulations under the Nevada Occupational Health and Safety Act, or OSHA. Nevada’s OSHA law is a variant of the federal OSHA standard, which provides most of the key rules governing workplace safety, including rules covering chemical hazards and toxic substances. OSHA is a regulatory regime that does not provide a private remedy for someone who is injured as a consequence of an employer’s failure to comply with its requirements. Employees who wish to raise concerns with Nevada’s oversight authority are protected by whistleblower laws from retaliation by the employer. Workers’ compensation is the sole remedy available to most people who are injured on the job. The workers’ compensation system strikes a bargain between employers and employees: in exchange for requiring all employers to carry insurance that will provide benefits for their employees who are injured at work, employers are shielded from liability for most types of workplace injuries. Workers’ comp is a no-fault form of insurance, which means that the insurer will not base its coverage decisions on the extent to which the employer or employee was at fault in the accident. This does not mean that fault has no effect on workers’ compensation: if the employer is failing to adhere to safety standards, its premiums will go up or it may lose coverage altogether and be forced to shut down until the problem is corrected. This, together with the employer’s interest in having a safe and healthy workforce, should provide employers with plenty of incentive to meet or exceed OSHA standards.
Considerations for making a workers’ compensation claim
An employee who is exposed to dangerous chemicals at work should report the incident to supervisors in writing. The employee should also keep keep a copy of the report and make notes about what happened, including when and where the accident occurred and the specific chemical that was involved. If the exposure caused an immediate injury that required medical attention, letting the treating physician know that the injury was work-related is an important part of the claims process. Records become crucially important when a chemical exposure leads to long-term illness. Especially if the exposure causes a problem like cancer, the employee may not be fully aware of the disease for a long time after the initial exposure. By making detailed reports and keeping records, the employee can make future claims easier to defend.
For more than 50 years GGRM Law Firm has represented clients in the Las Vegas area in workers’ compensation cases. We can help anyone who has suffered a workplace injury in Nevada pursue the benefits they deserve. For a free attorney consultation, call us at 702-384-1616 or through our contact page.