North Carolina Workers' Compensation Lawyers Blog

Articles Posted in Hazardous Chemicals

Authorities say a 52-year-old worker at a high magnetic field laboratory was killed when a release of pressure caused a steel cap to come loose, shoot forward, and hit him according to a recent article from the Tennessee Democrat. Employee was a mechanical trade worker who, along with assistance of a work crew, was constructing a magnet when the fatal on-the-job accident occurred.

magnet-1157455.jpgSpecifically, his team was building a system designed to provide water cooling to the magnet under construction. They were trying to remove the steel cap gently, but it was caught in a jet of pressurized water, and the pipe was propelled forward toward employee. After the steel cap hit him, first responders were immediately called to scene. The laboratory’s own safety personnel showed up, immediately followed by local police, fire department personnel and EMTs.
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With two nurses from Dallas, another doctor from New York, and now with another nurse being quarantined after providing services to Ebola patients in West Africa, working conditions for health care workers are under scrutiny. The life-threatening threat has spiked concern among residents, politicians, and members of the health care working community–both in training and establishing protocol and how workers should be treated to prevent future spread.


After the death of a Liberian who was infected with Ebola, a nurse responsible for treating him became the first person to contract Ebola in the United States. Local, state, and federal officials scrambled to determine how she had contracted the disease, despite wearing protective gear. Officials were also concerned about how to prevent future cases, and to minimize the risk of treating patients.
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Last year, 15 workers were killed in West Texas during an ammonium nitrate explosion. The incident spurred officials with the Occupational Safety & Health Administration to issue a new Process Safety Management standard per the President’s Executive Order 13650. chemicals.jpg

The agency recently announced it would be extending the comment period for potential stakeholders before making final revisions and formalizing the measure.

Greensboro workers’ compensation lawyers understand the new measure broadly seeks to improve chemical safety and security at all workplaces.
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Work-related harm from hazardous chemicals sometimes extends beyond just the worker themselves. We’ve seen this in cases where those who worked closely with asbestos brought illness home to their families each night as loved ones breathed in the deadly fibers carried on work clothing. barbedcountryside.jpg

In 2007, the journal Environmental Health Perspectives reported on the case of three North Carolina farm workers who gave birth to infants with congenital anomalies consistent with pesticide exposure. State investigators found numerous pesticide safety problems, but they were unable to prove any clear violations by the employers.

Farm workers in general tend to be some of the most vulnerable employees in the workforce, prone to high levels of heat stress, musculoskeletal pain, respiratory illness and injuries and illness due to work with dangerous equipment and exposure to toxins.
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In the event of a national emergency or catastrophe, crews may be sent from around the region or the world to help with clean-up and restoration. A recent report indicates that workers who tended to the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill may have suffered a high-risk exposure that has increased their risk of liver cancer, leukemia and other terminal conditions.

According to a recent study published in the Journal of American Medicine, there are dangerous health repercussions for the workers involved in the clean-up after the Gulf oil spill. Our Spartanburg workers’ compensation attorneys are experienced in handling claims on behalf of injured workers and their families. We are vested in helping workers collect the compensation they are entitled to after a work-related accident or when diagnosed with an occupationally related disease.


After the BP oil spill, chemicals were used to break up the crude oil which have proven to be hazardous to workers. There are now more than 170,000 people who worked on clean-up and could suffer from toxic exposure. In addition to the chemical dispersants, workers were also exposed to benzene, contained in the oil, which is a high-risk carcinogen.
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Exposure to chemicals is an issue in almost every type of industry there is – from waiting tables to plastics manufacturing.
The toxicity of those chemicals varies, of course, as does the level of exposure. However, our Charlotte workers’ compensation lawyers are careful to point out that some occupations not normally viewed as hazardous can be quite dangerous when the element of chemical exposure is considered.

One of the best examples of this is the work of nail care technicians. A recent publication was released by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration, detailing the workplace dangers to which nail care workers are routinely exposed. At the top of the list are chemical hazards, followed by chronic aches and pains and then biological hazards. It’s worth noting that many nail care salon workers are immigrants, and thus may not fully recognize all of their rights under the law. Acute or chronic illnesses resulting from workplace hazards or conditions is never acceptable and all workers in the U.S. have a right to be protected.
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When taking a domestic or international flight, TSA (Transportation Security Administration) is charged with ensuring that passengers are properly screened and searched. Recently, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued 14 notices an citations to the Department of Homeland Security Agency.

Federal workers are entitled to the same workplace safety standards as private employees. An unsafe workplace and conditions that violate OSHA regulations could result in serious injury to employees. Our Raleigh workers’ compensation attorneys are experienced in representing both private and public employees when pursuing workers’ compensation claims. We also stay abreast of local and national employment law issues and are dedicated to workplace safety.


Inspections of TSA, began as part of OSHA’s Federal Agency Targeting Inspection Program. OSHA authorities have stated that employees who work to protect travelers against unsafe conditions deserve the same protections. On-the-job hazards have apparently threatened the workers of the TSA agency, notably at Logan Airport in Boston.
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Combustible dust is a notorious hazard in a number of industries. According to OSHA, a combustible material can burn rapidly when in a fine partical form. Dust suspended in the air at the right concentration under certain conditions can become explosive. Some materials, including aluminum or iron, under certain conditions can become flammable or highly explosive when in the form of dust.

Employers and industry leaders, as well as government agencies, including OSHA, are responsible for regulating work conditions and ensuring that combustible dust is properly eliminated. Our Charlotte workers’ compensation attorneys are experienced with complex cases involving work accidents and injuries. We are aware of the very dangerous nature of highly combustible dust and urge employers to take appropriate action to prevent workplace injuries and fatalities.


The force of an explosion from combustible dust has been known to cause significant employee injuries and deaths. In some cases, a combustible dust explosion can demolish an entire building. The U.S. Chemical and Safety Hazard Investigation Board has identified 281 combustible dust explosions between 1980 and 2005. These accidents lead to the deaths of 119 workers nationwide. The explosions also resulted in over 700 injuries and the damage to countless industrial facilities.

Materials that can be combustible in dust exist in a range of industries including food, tobacco, plastic, wood and paper, furniture and textiles. Combustible dust also exists in textiles, pesticides, pharmaceuticals and metal industries. Workers in these and other industries should be aware of the risk and follow appropriate safety protocols to prevent injury. In the event of an explosion or injury, workers and their loved ones have the right to pursue workers’ compensation benefits.

This week, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board will hold a public meeting in Washington D.C. The board may designate an OSHA combustible dust standard as its first “Most Wanted Chemical Safety Improvement,” due to the very dangerous nature of the material. Leadership in OSHA is the audience for the meeting and the board is slated to consider whether the three previous recommendations are not acceptable. After several investigations the board has not found that OSHA adequately implemented safety management.

The meeting will focus on three main recommendations. The first is in response to an investigation in a Delaware refinery which found that the storage tanks could be involved with the potential release in a covered process with 10,000 pounds of a flammable substance. The second recommendation involves a Texas refinery which should require additional oversight of organizational changes that could impact process safety. A third recommendation calls on OSHA to issue a fuel gas safety standard for construction and general industry.

The meeting and review of standards in the treatment of combustible dust is intended to broaden OSHA oversight and create enforceable safety standards to protect the well-being of workers. We are committed to raising awareness about the dangers of combustible dust and urge North and South Carolina employees and workers to stay abreast of all safety measures in all impacted industries.
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Nationwide, there are a growing number of craft-brewing companies that are expanding their production, bottling and distribution. With the rising trend of craft breweries, worker safety has been put at risk. There have been numerous injuries caused by explosions and fires as well as a rising death toll over the past few years. Brewery owners and workers should be aware of the safety risks and take necessary steps to prevent injury and accidental death.

According to recent reports, between 2009 and 2012, at least four workers have died in craft brewery accidents in the United States. Our Greenville workers’ compensation attorneys are dedicated to worker safety and helping victims and their families recover financial support in the event of an accident, injury or wrongful death. We will assist in investigating an accident, filing necessary documentation and advocating on behalf of victims and their families.


Craft breweries, or smaller breweries, can pose additional risk to workers. According to OSHA records, there were fewer deaths at larger facilities that produced 10 times more beer. This means that smaller breweries are probably not implementing the same safety measures as large brewing companies, or that they are less monitored. The same reports indicated that there were four times as many safety violations at the smaller craft breweries.

The Brewers Association defines a craft brewery as one that makes 6 million barrels or less per year. A craft brewer title also requires that the recipe is traditional and less than 25% of the company can be owned by an alcohol drinkmaker. Brewery experts say that the oversight of smaller companies is lacking because there aren’t enough resources to keep tabs, especially as the trend is only growing. The number of injuries may also be under reported. The craft brewing industry has expanded from a niche market into an $10 billion dollar industry. To meet the needs of a quickly growing industry, employee safety has sometimes been overlooked. Many of the entrepreneurs in the brewing industry do not have a chemical or industrial safety background and do not know how to keep grounds safe or to train employees.

Brewery accidents and injuries can range from explosions and fires to serious injuries caused by heavy machinery, falls or electrical injuries. Reported accidents include death caused by fire or explosion and a keg that compressed because of pressure, which exploded and killed a worker. Craft industries should be consulting with safety experts to ensure that machinery is safe for use and that kegs pressures are kept at safe levels.

Safety inspectors and OSHA officials found 547 violations including 250 serious violations in breweries between 2003 and 2011. The brewers were fined a total of $222,000 for their violations which ranged from failing to enclose sprockets to not ensuring that machinery was disabled when an employee was inside.

In the event of a catastrophic workplace accident, victims and their families may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. In addition to workers’ compensation for medical expenses and lost wages, victims may also be able to pursue third-party claims for additional losses. In these complex cases, a personal injury and workers’ compensation attorney can assist in sorting through the viability of your claims.
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OSHA is charged with making sure that a workplace is safe for employees.

It is often true that both OSHA and state workplace safety enforcement agencies focus heavily on accidental injury to the detriment of preventing occupational disease and illness. North Carolina has been recognized as a state with a high incidence of both injury and accidental death. Our Spartanburg workers’ compensation attorneys are dedicated to raising awareness about the dangers of occupational disease and illness.

According to a recent report published in honor of Memorial Day by the National Council on Occupational Health and Safety, Federal OSHA rules and enforcement focus almost exclusively on safety conditions and hazards that may result in falls and other immediate bodily injury. Focusing on accidental injury ignores some of the other serious hazards in the workplace including toxic substances that can result in loss of vision, burns, permanent brain damage and death.


Recent headlines have pointed to a North Carolina operation that manufactured cushions using a highly toxic chemical known as n-propyl bromide (or nPB). Where OSHA has the ability to regulate workplace conditions for safety to prevent falls, fires equipment injuries and other accidents, it has no standards to limit exposure to the chemical nPB. When workers at the plant were exposed to the chemical, they were made sick and many of those suffered permanent injury and disability.

Despite reports that the chemical was causing serious harm to workers, the North Carolina OSHA agency failed to take any action to prevent additional injury. According to a local physical who treated the poisonous workers said that many were unable to stand on their own. They had to be supported by family members. Even when the company lost employees to disability and the disease, they continued to hire additional workers without any oversight from the government.

While OSHA is responsible for ensuring workers have safe and healthy working conditions, the North Carolina cushion plant story illustrates that the agency is failing. In this case, OSHA had inspected the agency over the course of several years. Even finding exposure, it only fined the company modestly and saw no changes after the inspection. Workers continued to fall prey to the exposure to toxic nPB.

In addition to occupational hazards such as accidental injury or fall, workers, employers and government agencies should be more aware of the potential for occupational disease and illness that can be attributed to toxic exposure and hazards. Employees are also at risk of permanent damage to sight or hearing.

An occupational disease is any chronic ailment caused by work or occupational activities. Many instances of occupational disease are discovered after more than one employee fall victim to the disease or illness. Examples of occupational disease include lung disease or asbestos poisoning, black lung, or occupational asthma. Employees have been known to contract skin diseases, including eczema when exposed to certain chemicals in industries like catering, healthcare, printing, construction, mechanics or hair styling. Other forms of occupational disease include Carpal tunnel syndrome and lead poisoning.
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