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What you should know about working with toxins in the workplace

Toxic exposure can lead to a number of serious injuries and illnesses. Workplaces with toxic substances present should have safety features in place to prevent exposure. Despite this, workers in the U.S. are exposed to hazardous items at work every day; some are injured by the exposure and live a life with disabilities or chronic health conditions due to those injuries.

You have a right to know which chemicals and toxins are present in your workplace, so you can take steps to protect yourself and your coworkers. When chemicals are present, you should have access to a Material Safety Data Sheet, which gives you information on how to handle the materials and provides information on first aid after exposure, how to store and dispose the substances and what kinds of protective equipment you need to wear when handling them.

Some toxins won't be on an MSDS list, like cleaning supplies or other items you might have around the office, particularly if you don't typically have hazardous materials present. To find out if a product is toxic, look at its label. If there is a skull and crossbones or hazard warning, then you know that it is either poisonous or hazardous to humans. Why would there be unusual products in the office? Simple things, like fly spray or ant killers, might be used, or perhaps your boss decided to use a new window cleaner or other cleaning supplies. An MSDS sheet might not be present in that case, so take care to read the labels. Employers should brief coworkers on safety if necessary.

If toxic chemicals have to be used in the workplace, it's important that they are isolated and used in well-ventilated areas. When toxins can be replaced by safer alternatives, that should happen to prevent injuries. With the right preventative actions, you can stay safe with these items in the workplace.

Source: FindLaw, "Toxic Exposure in the Workplace," accessed Sep. 07, 2016

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