Some jobs require the use of caustic chemicals. Employers in California who supervise workers doing these jobs have an obligation to follow specific guidelines for the safety of their employees. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration frequently issues warnings and guidelines to prevent toxic exposure on the job.
Recently a man doing temporary work was stripping paint from a bathtub in an apartment building. The bathroom was small, and the worker had opened the window slightly to allow air to circulate. However, the high levels of the methylene chloride in the paint stripper in such a confined space overcame the man, and he was rendered unconscious. When he was discovered two hours later, he had already died from the poisonous fumes.
Methylene chloride is in ingredient in common paint strippers. OSHA recommends that employers find safer, less toxic products whenever possible. If the use of methylene chloride is necessary, OSHA says the air quality in the room should be closely monitored. Adequate ventilation is vital to prevent asphyxiation, but according to OSHA, the room must be ventilated by more than an open window or a bathroom fan. Most importantly, OSHA advises that all employees — even temporary ones — receive proper training for the use of harsh chemicals.
Hopefully, the unfortunate death of this employee from toxic exposure will bring positive changes in California and workplaces across the country. Nevertheless, the man’s family may be left with burdens, including funeral expenses, unexpected bills and the loss of his income for daily necessities. They would be within their rights to contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to make sure their rights are protected and that they receive the death benefits they deserve.
Source: safetyandhealthmagazine.com, “OSHA warns about hazards of methylene chloride in new alert“, August 17, 2016