Construction is known to be one of the most dangerous occupations. Each year, tens of thousands of construction workers suffer serious and sometimes fatal injuries and illnesses on the job. And one hazard that is often overlooked in this industry is exposure to toxic substances.
If you or a loved one has suffered an injury due to hazardous chemical exposure on a construction site, you may be eligible for significant compensation. Toxic substance exposure cases can be extremely complicated, however.
While some symptoms might show up immediately, others could take years or even decades to fully manifest themselves. There are also several different parties that could be responsible for the injury the worker suffers. This is why it is important to speak with an experienced workplace injury attorney as soon as possible.
If your construction-related injury or illness occurred in the Atlanta area or anywhere in Georgia, Bailey, Javins & Carter, L.C. is here to help! We have been standing up for injured workers for more than five decades, and we have a successful track record with even the most complex cases. When we take on a workplace injury case, we look beyond workers’ compensation to explore every potential legal avenue toward recovering full damages on behalf of our clients.
Toxic Chemicals that Construction Workers are Commonly Exposed To
Construction workers are at risk for a number of different occupational diseases that might result from exposure to hazardous substances on the job. And exposure can take several different forms, such as inhalation and absorption through the skin, for example.
Here are some of the toxic chemicals that construction workers frequently come in contact with:
Lead is a heavy metal that is commonly found in various types of paints, roofing materials, and plumbing pipes. This is a poisonous substance that, when inhaled, can be absorbed into the bloodstream. In high enough quantities, lead inhalation can cause brain and blood disorders, kidney damage, high blood pressure, and damage to the nervous system.
Silica is a naturally occurring substance that is found in concrete, bricks, tiles, stone, and sand. Silica can be inhaled during the process of dressing, cutting, grinding, or blasting these materials during construction and demolition projects. Workers who are overly exposed to silica are at risk of lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), and other types of damage to the lungs and kidneys.
Wood that is used in construction is treated with various chemicals that are intended to increase its lifespan and make it more resistant to decaying and insect attacks. Exposure to harmful levels of wood preservatives can result in various types of diseases, including heart and kidney problems, nerve damage, and cancer.
Solvents such as benzene and acetone are used for a variety of different purposes in construction, including paints, stains, sealants, and adhesives. Inhaling, ingesting, and absorbing the substances into the skin can lead to a number of different health problems, such as respiratory impairment, liver and kidney damage, and damage to the reproductive system.
Construction workers who are working on repair or demolition projects with older buildings dating back to the 1980s or prior run the risk of asbestos exposure. And inhalation of asbestos fibers is known to be the cause of the vast majority of mesothelioma cases. Mesothelioma is a deadly form of cancer that affects the lungs, heart, and abdomen.
Breathing in diesel fumes from various types of equipment on a construction site can cause health hazards. In the short term, irritation caused by the fumes can result in aggravation of existing COPD or asthma conditions. In the longer term, ongoing exposure to diesel fumes can cause several types of respiratory illnesses, including cancer.
Inhalation Injuries on a Construction Site
Because of the widespread potential for toxic exposure injuries, it is vitally important that all parties who are involved in a construction project follow OSHA standards and best safety practices. Unfortunately, this is all too often not the case.
Hazard communication is frequently among OSHA’s top most cited safety violations. In 2020, hazard communication was #2 on OSHA’s list with a total of 3,199 citations. When hazardous chemicals are not labeled appropriately and handled properly, it puts construction workers at serious risk of inhalation injuries.
In addition to mislabeling and mishandling (at the root of which is often a failure to properly train workers on these procedures), there are several other possible causes of inhalation injuries on a construction site. These include:
- Failing to properly warn of toxic substances and inhalation risks on the property.
- Failing to control the release of toxic fumes or particles.
- Failing to provide workers with adequate personal protective equipment (PPE).
- Failing to provide an adequate plan of escape in the event of a fire or the release of toxic substances.
An inhalation injury can be extremely serious and cause severe damage to a worker’s lungs and other organs. This type of injury will often keep a worker from returning to their job for an extended period of time. In the worst cases, toxic exposure can result in a life-threatening condition.
Liability for Inhalation Injuries on a Construction Site
When someone suffers a toxic exposure injury, there are a number of potential legal options they may have in order to recover compensation. The first recourse is usually to file a workers’ compensation claim with the employer. Workers’ comp is a no-fault program, and you do not need to prove negligence in order to obtain benefits.
Although you can get benefits through workers’ compensation without having to show fault, these benefits are limited, and the compensation you receive will not be enough to cover all of your losses. The only way to obtain full and fair compensation for your inhalation injury is through a personal injury claim. Filing a personal injury claim opens the door to recovery of the intangible losses that you have suffered because of your injury, such as physical pain-and-suffering and emotional distress.
In Georgia, employers who have workers’ comp coverage are generally immune from workplace injury lawsuits filed by employees. So, an injured or sick construction worker would need to pursue a personal injury claim against an outside party.
Who is Responsible for Construction Injuries from Hazardous Chemical Exposure?
When a construction worker is injured by toxic substance exposure on the job, there are several potential contributing factors, and there are several parties that could be at fault. While a Georgia worker cannot usually sue their employer after a workplace injury, there may be outside parties that could be held liable.
For example, a chemical manufacturer could be at fault if they failed to disclose that safely working with a particular substance requires certain types of personal protective equipment (PPE). Or in other cases, a third-party subcontractor could be the one responsible if the toxic exposure happened because they failed to follow proper safety procedures.
If a personal injury lawsuit is possible, it opens the door to various types of non-economic damages that are not available through workers’ compensation. These include pain and suffering, emotional distress, and diminished quality of life.
Contact Bailey, Javins & Carter, L.C. to Discuss Your Georgia Construction Injury Claim
For strong legal guidance with construction injury claims in Georgia, call Bailey, Javins & Carter, L.C. at 678-981-5370 or message us online for a free consultation and case assessment. We look forward to serving you!