Chemical Plant Hazards Jeopardize Workplace Safety

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When a major chemical plant explosion occurs, it usually makes the national news due to the devastating nature of the accident.

Unfortunately, chemical plant accidents are more common than you might think. They can result in serious injuries, including burns, respiratory illnesses caused by exposure to toxic chemicals, and slip and fall injuries. Chemical plant workers who have been injured on the job are eligible to receive financial benefits through their employer’s Workers’ Compensation insurer. An experienced
Workers’ Compensation lawyer can address all questions or concerns and ensure that the injured employee’s rights are protected.

Common Causes of Chemical Plant Accidents
The two main types of chemical plant accidents are natural causes and human error. Examples of an accident caused by natural causes are hurricanes, tornadoes, or if an earthquake triggers a tsunami that hits a power plant, such as what happened at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

However, the majority of workplace accidents are caused by human error. The following are some of the most common causes of chemical plant accidents, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency:

- Failure to observe warnings and potential problems
- Poorly designed equipment
- Inadequate hazard review
- Inadequate indications of process condition
- Causes of Non-Fatal Workplace Injuries

Liberty Mutual Insurance Company’s annual Workplace Safety Index identifies the following common causes of chemical plant injures:

- Falls
- Overexertion
- Struck by/against an object
- Injuries from bending, reaching, slipping, tripping, etc.
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Violence/assault
- Repetitive motion injuries
- Chemical Burn Injuries

One of the most common hazards is chemical burns. If a chemical burn is relatively minor, it can usually be treated on the spot with a cold compress followed by pain relievers. Severe burns require immediate medical attention, as they can damage several layers of skin, nerves and muscles. Oftentimes, they could require several rounds of surgeries and painful skin grafts, which can leave the victim severely disfigured. It is always a good idea to have any chemical burn checked out by a medical professional immediately.

According to the Mayo Clinic, a chemical burn is considered a medical emergency if the following is true:

- The burn causes a second-degree burn to an area larger than three inches in diameter
- The pain is not controlled by over-the-counter pain relievers
- The burn occurs on the eye, hands, feet, face, groin, buttocks, or over a major joint
- Causes the victim to show signs of shock, including fainting, pale complexion, or shallow breathing
- Electrocutions

Electrocutions are another common injury that can occur at chemical plants. These are often caused by one or more of the following factors:

- Malfunctioning equipment
- Faulty wiring
- Unsafe electrical design
- Old outlets or cables

It is the employer’s responsibility to provide a safe work environment for all workers. While chemical plants can be dangerous, there are steps employers can take to maximize the safety of its employees. For example, making sure that all employees are properly trained on the latest safety protocols, updating or repairing equipment, and having systems in place for emergency situations can communicate the message that safety is a top priority.

One of Maryland’s “Super Lawyers,” Paul Tolzman received his Bachelor of Arts degree in History from Loyola University Maryland and earned his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Baltimore School of Law. He was admitted to practice before Maryland Courts in 1977. Mr. Tolzman has extensive litigation experience in criminal/DUI defense. In addition, in the personal injury arena, his firm has recovered over $100 million for his clients.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

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