Employees in every industry face a variety of risks at work, from the potential to suffer a fall to the dangers of exposure to chemicals or toxins in the air. The Occupational Safety And Health Administration sets workplace standards related to toxic exposure but OSHA has not successfully updated its permissible exposure list since 1971. Unfortunately, this means too many workers are potentially breathing in legal substances every time they do their jobs.
One of many examples of a dangerous industry where chemical exposure has consequences is the manicure and nail industry. According to The Hill, U.S. Senators are calling on OSHA to conduct an investigation of dangerous working conditions in nail salons following an earlier New York Times expose on health issues faced by manicurists.
OSHA’s inability to effectively keep air quality standards high has serious consequences. When workers get sick on the job, they could incur costly medical bills and may suffer an untimely death. Workers’ compensation should provide payment of medical bills as well as disability or death benefits, but it can sometimes be hard for employees to prove that an illness they developed occurred due to chemical exposure at work. An Atlanta workplace illness lawyer can provide assistance to those who believe they are sick because of their jobs.
Chemical Exposure Can Cause Serious Workplace Injuries
The New York Times reported that manicurists working in nail salons are continually exposed to hazardous fumes and chemicals found in nail polish and other beauty products. The result is that these workers are developing a higher rate of cancer and they have a higher rate of miscarriages. People who work in a manicure shop, who are mostly women, also tend to have babies with lower birth rates.
Two U.S. Senators sent a letter to OSHA demanding that the agency update it standards for chemical, ergonomic, and biological hazards. In particular, the Senators are asking OSHA to address three toxic chemicals that are regularly found in nail polish: toluene, dibutyl phthalate, and formaldehyde.
The problem is that OSHA has tried to update its PEL list and has not been successful in doing so. The PELs were first adopted in 1971, and in 1989 OHSA tried to update them when it published the Air Contaminants final rule. This was the most significant attempt made by the agency to update the PEL list.
The Court of Appeals, however, vacated the 1989 update after 23 of the 428 PELs were challenged. The court found that “OSHA [had] not sufficiently explained or supported its threshold determination that exposure to these substances at previous levels posed a significant risk of these material health impairments or that the new standard eliminates or reduces that risk to the extent feasible.”
It would be very difficult for OSHA to meet this standard when it comes to updating its PEL list to address all of the toxic chemicals that workers may be exposed to on a daily basis. The two Senators who sent a letter to OSHA gave OSHA 14 days to describe the authority that the agency needs from Congress to update its PEL list and asked OSHA to provide a detailed inspection plan for the enforcement of existing and future standards. Hopefully, this new push from Senators is going to to make a difference in moving OSHA forward so workers can get better protection from the toxins in every industry that cause workplace illnesses and deaths. Until the standards change, workers will continue to get sick and may continue to face challenges getting the workers’ comp benefits they need and deserve for workplace illnesses.
Parsons & Associates, P.C. is an Atlanta workers’ compensation law firm serving Atlanta, Savannah, and surrounding areas throughout Fulton County. Contact Parsons & Associates, P.C. today at 770-422-9000 or contact us online if you are suffering from a workplace illness.