Occupational Chemical Exposure: Likely to Cause Disability?

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Colin J. Brigham, CIH, CSP, CPE, CPEA ::::

Case Synopsis:  An employee at a manufacturing plant, and her husband, brought a civil action suit against a subcontractor who performed work at the plant. They alleged that the work the subcontractor performed caused her to sustain serious, painful, and permanent injuries due to airborne chemical exposures. The work involved cutting concrete flooring to install piping and sump pumps in order to collect and pump away subsurface water.

Expert Analysis:  Water was leaking up through concrete flooring at the manufacturing plant where the plaintiff worked, leading to potential slip/trip/fall, electrical, as well as, atmospheric hazards. Management at the plant hired a contractor to remove the existing flooring, install a drainage system underneath the flooring, and pour new flooring. The contractor hired a subcontractor to cut and remove the existing flooring. This work was performed on two days during normal plant working hours. The room in which the work was being performed had high ceilings and a number of general and local exhaust systems. The manufacturing plant management directed that no additional ventilation needed to be provided. The cutting tool used a water supply system to minimize airborne dust generation and cool the cutting blade. The two workers, who were cutting the floor, were likely to have the highest exposure to any hazardous airborne particles, and did not complain of or exhibit any adverse health effects; nor did other employees working in the area. It was unlikely that the airborne chemical exposures generated during this work would lead to adverse health effects.

Result:  The case went to trial with a ruling in favor of the defendant subcontractor.
 

 

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