There are new educational resources available to help to protect employees from overexposure to mercury while crushing and recycling fluorescent bulbs, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Compact fluorescent bulbs are popular, durable, energy saving alternatives in the workplace. They’re much more efficient than incandescent bulbs and more and more companies are switching to them. Unfortunately, the shift to these bulbs comes with risks for the workers who handle, recycle and dispose of them.
OSHA recently released a new fact sheet alerting workers who are exposed to these dangers about the different ways they can apply personal protective equipment and engineering controls.
There’s also a Quick Card to help to educate employees about the risks that are associated with these bulbs. Included in this information are effective ways to handle the bulbs and how to properly clean them up if they’re accidentally broken. All of this information is working to minimize workers’ exposures to mercury.
Our Asheville workers’ compensation attorneys understand that these bulbs can release harmful mercury, which poses a serious health threat to the worker. It happens when they’re broken or when they’re recycled. Depending on how long a worker is exposed to this mercury, they can suffer from a number of injuries and illnesses, including kidney problems, tremors, other nervous system disorders and damage to unborn children.
In the event of a broken bulb, each workplace should have:
-A cleanup plan. This plan needs to be known by all workers present.
-Brooms should never be used to clean the broken bulbs. Brooms will only work to spread the mercury.
-A vacuum designed to clean mercury. If a bulb is broken, this is the most effective way to clean up the mess. If you use a vacuum that’s not specifically designed for this task, it will only work to increase air levels of the mercury and then the vacuum will become contaminated.
-Proper training. All workers should know the risks involved with mercury exposure and they should be trained in ways to help to reduce the risks of overexposure. They should also be trained on the procedures for ensuring that air filtration systems and seals are functioning properly.
Signs of mercury exposure can include:
-Changes in behavior.
-Irritation of the eyes.
You don’t have to touch it to be exposed either. If you’re near mercury you can also be exposed by just breathing the vapor in the air.
Remember, there are strict state government and EPA regulations for disposing of fluorescent bulbs and other mercury-contaminated waste! Be safe and follow all of the necessary safety precautions to help to prevent a potentially life-altering injury or illness. If you feel that your workplace is not following these procedures, speak up! It’s a joint effort and everyone needs to participate in safe work practices.
If you or someone you love has been injured or killed at work, contact Lee Law Offices, P.A. for legal advice regarding your rights. Call 1-800-887-1965.
More Blog Entries:
Working From Home: Work Accidents Likely without Preparation, North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Blog, August 6, 2012
Workplace Violence: An Unrecognized Threat in North Carolina, North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Blog, August 5, 2012