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Workers vulnerable without proper hazardous waste training

Recently neighbors to a powder coating services company were shocked to learn about the hazardous waste contained at the business. The waste was uncovered during an inspection conducted by state officials that was prompted by an anonymous tip. Among other things, a liquid described as corrosive was seen seeping into the ground.

While such a material could most definitely pose a risk to individuals living in the area who are exposed to it, what about the workers who handle it regularly? Officials for the state of North Carolina determined that in this case the business' employees had not been properly trained to work with the material. As a result, the business faced fines from the state.

It is unclear whether any of those improperly trained employees developed an illness after being exposed to the material. While we often write about workplace accidents that lead to worker injuries, workplace illnesses are actually a bigger issue for most employers and employees. Depending on the hazardous material, a worker who is repeatedly exposed can suffer a wide variety of ailments including difficulties breathing, skin reactions and sometimes even infertility.

As is the case with injuries suffered in workplace accidents, workers who become ill due to conditions at their workplace may seek workers' compensation benefits. These benefits are obtained via the filing of a workers' compensation claim. In cases where the worker recovers in a short amount of time, any benefits granted could cover such things as lost wages and medical expenses. If the injuries are permanent, it is possible benefits will extend for a longer period of time.

Source: WSOC TV, "9 Investigates: Local companies fined for mishandling waste," Kathryn Burcham, Feb. 21, 2013

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