The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sets standards for worker safety and health. The standards are set to ensure maritime workers have a work environment where they are protected against recognized safety and health hazards. OSHA expects maritime employers to prevent exposure of hazardous substances known to cause harm. Determining whether this obligation is being met involves evaluating working conditions and whether adequate precautions have been taken to prevent maritime injuries.
Maritime workers may be exposed to a wide variety of hazardous chemicals as part of their job. Work on a vessel will frequently involve maintenance activities to degrease, clean, and paint various equipment. Chemicals may also be used to control vermin, clean holds, and run the boiler room. Examples of chemicals that maritime workers may be exposed to include:
- Solvents, such as benzene, toluene, and acetone
- Cleaning compounds, such as disinfectants and detergents
- Fossil fuels, such as gasoline, crude oil, and diesel
- Water treatment chemicals, such as chlorine
Exposure to chemicals can create injury from inhalation, ingestion, or skin contact. Depending on the particular route, duration, and concentration of exposure, workers exposed to hazardous chemicals can suffer from a series of different illnesses and injuries, including:
- Skin contact, such as burns or dermatitis
- Inhalation, such as chronic diseases to various organs, immune system compromise, or cancer
- Ingestion, such as acute poisoning, asphyxiation, or death
Protecting maritime workers from overexposure requires proper storage, handling, and use of chemicals. This includes providing adequate training so workers know how to safely use the chemicals, as well as providing proper personal protective equipment to prevent overexposure.
The consequences of overexposure can range from being mild and transitory to causing permanent, serious illness. Sometimes it is not immediately apparent that an overexposure has occurred. In the case of chronic long-term exposure, it may take years for symptoms to finally develop. In these cases, the damage has been done and cannot be reversed by discontinuing exposure.
Compensation for Hazardous Chemical Overexposure
If you are a maritime worker that has been injured or gotten sick on the job after being exposed to hazardous chemicals, then you may be entitled to compensation under the Jones Act. Compensation can be awarded for medical expenses, pain and suffering, and other damages caused by the exposure. In some cases, it may be necessary to prove negligence on the part of the employer to qualify for certain compensation.
Once you realize you have been injured or harmed by exposure to a chemical hazard, it is important to seek the services of an experienced maritime lawyer who will know how to document your exposure, evaluate your employer’s liability under relevant statutes, and develop your case. Depending on the particulars of the case, a statute of limitations may apply. If so, you will need to initiate a claim within that time period to preserve your rights.
Cape May Maritime Accident Lawyers at Freedman & Lorry, P.C. Advocate for Workers Exposed to Hazardous Chemicals
If you were injured at sea, contact one of our experienced Cape May maritime accident lawyers at Freedman & Lorry, P.C. For a free consultation, call us at 888-999-1962 or submit an online form. Located in Philadelphia, Cherry Hill, New Jersey, and Pinehurst, North Carolina, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania.