The construction site is a workplace that is constantly evolving and advancing. While new technology and scientific findings makes the job of the contractor easier, it doesn’t always make it safer. One example of this is the many hazardous chemicals that construction workers may come into contact with on a daily basis when completing essential job duties. The threats of years past still exist (lead, silica, asbestos), but there are even more modern toxins today.
Injuries Caused by Hazardous Chemicals
Hazardous chemicals take on many different forms and can enter the body in multiple ways. Dust, fumes, gas, and vapors affect humans through inhalation, ingestion, swallowing, and skin absorption. Some chemicals do not have any smell, allowing them to absorb deep into the body without being detected. These toxins can cause of variety of injuries and health disorders to those they affect:
- birth defects
- internal organ damage
- neurological effects
- respiratory effects
Toxic Chemicals on the Construction Site
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) offers information and guidelines to handling hazardous chemicals in the workplace. The most common and dangerous toxins found on the construction site are listed below.
Beryllium: Commonly found in copper and other base metals. Can cause chemical pneumonia upon exposure and lead to shortness of breath, chronic cough, fatigue, and weight loss with continuous exposure.
Cadmium: Commonly found in steel and other alloys and has affected approximately 70,000 construction workers according to the OSHA. Produces severe lung irritation upon inhalation. Continuous exposure can result in pulmonary edema, death, emphysema and kidney damage.
Chlorinated Hydrocarbon Solvents: Commonly found in cleaning and degreasing products. Decomposition of the vapors from welding, cutting, and heating can produce a highly toxic and irritating phosgene gas.
Carbon Monoxide: Takes gas form and is found in fuels and is especially toxic in poorly ventilated areas.
Iron Oxide: Found in steel and can affect workers during the welding process when fumes easily arise. Irritates the mouth, nose, throat, and lungs upon exposure.
Fluoride: Found in fluxes used for welding. Exposure may immediately irritate eyes, nose, and throat. Continuous exposure may cause pulmonary edema and bone damage.
Lead: Found in metals and produces fumes when cut or welded. Inhalation and ingestion can lead to lead poisoning which causes negative effects to the brain, central nervous system, circulatory system, reproductive system, kidneys, and muscles.
Mercury: Often found in metals and can turn to vapor when heated. Exposure can result in immediate stomach pain, diarrhea, kidney damage, and respiratory failure. Long-term exposure can cause tremors, emotional instability, and hearing damage.
Phosgene: Formed by the decomposition of chlorinated solvents from heat and ultraviolet radiation. May result in lung tissue damage upon exposure.
Zinc: Commonly found in brass, galvanized metals, other alloys. Enters the body through inhalation of fumes that can result when welding or cutting zinc metals.
Ozone: Produced by ultraviolet light from the welding arc. A toxic form of oxygen that may cause immediate irritation to the mucous membranes and long term damage to the lungs.
Nitrogen Oxides: Also caused by ultraviolet light from the welding arc. Exposure can cause shortness of breath, chest pain, and pulmonary edema.
Ultraviolet radiation (UV): Produced by the electric arc during the welding process. Exposure can cause eye irritation and contact with skin can cause severe burns and.
Infrared Radiation: Also produced by electric arc and other flame cutting equipment. Can heat the skin and tissues immediately upon contact.
Intense Visible Light: Eye exposure to the visible light during the arc welding process can cause severe eye damage.
Safe Handling of Hazardous Chemicals
Some hazardous chemicals have a strong odor or cause obvious irritation of the nose and throat. Other, however, can penetrate deep into the body without any detection. That’s why it is extremely important to follow safety regulations and handle all toxins carefully.
- Always wash hands thoroughly after handling chemicals. Any toxins leftover on the hands can later become ingested when eating or smoking.
- Do not eat or drink in the presence of hazardous chemicals as vapors can contaminate liquids and utensils.
- Always use safety equipment such as helmet, glasses, and protective clothing when exposure is possible.
- Take great precautions when working in confined spaces and follow all safety regulations. Contractors that work in confined spaces are at risk for even greater damage from exposure to toxic chemicals. Confined space allow fumes to more easily spread and limit the oxygen available.
New Jersey Lawyer for Injured Construction Workers
If you are a construction worker that has been injured due to hazardous chemical exposure, you may be eligible for compensation. The Hayes Firm is a free lawyer finding service that can connect you with an experienced New Jersey lawyer today. Send us an email or give us a call and we will review your case as soon as possible. If further legal action will be helpful to your case, we will connect you with a knowledgeable and local workers’ compensation attorney. Contact us to find out if you qualify for compensation today.