Feds say more monitoring needed by natural gas stations

The Department of Environmental Protection announced on April 27 that they will step up air-quality monitoring near natural gas compressor stations. One site in Susquehanna County found levels of…

The Department of Environmental Protection announced on April 27 that they will step up air-quality monitoring near natural gas compressor stations. One site in Susquehanna County found levels of PM2.5, which is a particulate matter that could be harmful to those who are exposed to it long-term.

The air-quality monitoring will take place in 10 western and northern counties in the state. This is in addition to 27 locations across the state that are currently being monitored. The plan is to have the new monitoring in place by 2017.

The areas that are not monitored right now will be providing the first data to the DEP. They will be monitoring for sulfates, nitrates, metals, organic chemicals, oil and more. The health effects of these particulates when people are exposed include asthma, decreased lung function, bronchitis and emphysema. Those who are young and the elderly have the highest risk.

The greater potential risk, though, is from the PM2.5 particles. The particles are small and that can mean they get deep into the lungs, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

A recent report by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Control found the higher levels of PM2.5. The announcement from the DEP about increased monitoring came just five days later. The DEP, though, said that the plan had been in place for several months before results of the ATSDR study were released.

Other health problems that can be caused by exposure to PM2.5 over time include more hospitalizations, low birth weights, pre-term births and an increase in mortality. While PM2.5 could be harmful for the elderly and young children, there is no risk for others for a short amount of time.

Workers in areas where the PM2.5 exposure is high could experience illness. Workers’ compensation does provide benefits for those who are made ill because of their work. An experienced lawyer can provide more information on your legal options.

Source: StateImpact, “PA expands particulate monitoring as federal study finds high level in one location,” Jon Hurdle, May 05, 2016

When is a chemical toxic?

When discussing toxic substances, the more of a substance that is in your body, the more it will affect you. This correlation between the effect and the amount is…

When discussing toxic substances, the more of a substance that is in your body, the more it will affect you. This correlation between the effect and the amount is known as the “dose-response relationship.”

When a toxic chemical is inhaled, there are four factors that determine how much of the substance will enter the body. These factors are:

— The amount of the chemical present in the air.

— How heavy and deep your breathing is.

— How much of the substance is absorbed after inhaling it.

— How long you are exposed.

Obviously, when toxic substances are present, limiting one’s exposure as much as possible is best. With some chemicals, a short amount of exposure will cause effects on the body. Some chemicals are hazardous because of how they accumulate in the body. Others may not give the body a chance to repair the damage caused by exposure.

The effects of some toxic chemicals take years to see. For some chemicals, all of the effects on the body are not known. This can make establishing a relationship between illness and chemical exposure difficult. On many worksites, workers are exposed to multiple toxic chemicals and that can make establishing the relationship described above even harder. Not everyone reacts to toxic chemicals the same way, either, which can make research more difficult, too.

If you have been injured or suffered an illness due to exposure to a toxic chemical at work in Pennsylvania, you have a right to workers’ compensation. Should your claim be denied, a lawyer can help you file an appeal to get you the benefits you deserve.

Source: Purdue University, “Understanding Toxic Substances: An Introduction to Chemical Hazards in the Workplace,” Washington Strate Department of Labor and Industries, accessed Feb. 17, 2016

Scaffolding accidents: What you need to know

Every day throughout the country, employees use scaffolding to work at heights. For example, bricklayers use this equipment on buildings of all sizes. While there is no denying the…

Every day throughout the country, employees use scaffolding to work at heights. For example, bricklayers use this equipment on buildings of all sizes.

While there is no denying the many benefits of scaffolding, here is something you need to keep in mind: It can be extremely dangerous. All it takes is one mistake by one person to cause an accident. And an accident that happens on scaffolding can cause serious injury or even death.

Take for example scaffolding that has been poorly maintained or incorrectly assembled. In either case, the equipment may not be able to stand up to the rigors of the job. If it fails for any reason, anybody standing on or in close proximity to the scaffolding could be injured.

Did you know there are also times when scaffolding can be considered defective? The problem with this is that employers and workers don’t often know this is a problem. Instead, they use the equipment thinking that it is in good working condition.

If you are involved in a scaffolding accident, don’t wait to receive medical attention. Also, make it clear to your employer that you were injured on the job.

Once you are in position to do so, we are here to answer all your questions related to your accident and legal rights. For example, you may be able to obtain benefits by filing a claim against the manufacturer.

If you want to learn more about scaffolding accidents, including your rights, you can do so by visiting the many pages of our website and blog devoted to this subject matter.

Malignant mesothelioma risk factors

There are specific risk factors for many diseases. Even though you may have one or more risk factors, that doesn’t mean that you will automatically get the disease. Not…

There are specific risk factors for many diseases. Even though you may have one or more risk factors, that doesn’t mean that you will automatically get the disease. Not having any risk factors doesn’t mean you won’t get the disease, either. There are some risk factors that can increase your chances of getting mesothelioma.

Asbestos exposure is a primary risk factor for pleural mesothelioma. When asbestos fibers get into the lungs, they enter the chest wall and the lining of the lungs. The cells in the lining are injured, which can eventually result in mesothelioma. Those fibers can also damage the lungs’ cells and result in lung cancer or asbestosis.

It’s believed that millions of people in this country have already been exposed to this dangerous substance. Asbestos was once used as insulation in public and commercial buildings, including some schools, and in older homes. While exposure to asbestos usually only occurs when those building materials are removed or begin to decompose, there are some occupations that also had serious exposure to asbestos in the past. These included ship builders, railroad workers, factory workers, some minors, plumbers and construction workers, just to name a few.

It can take 20 to 50 years to develop mesothelioma after the first time someone is exposed to asbestos. Even if there is no more exposure to asbestos, the risk for developing mesothelioma appears to be ongoing.

If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you should consider whether it could have been caused by asbestos exposure. At MHK Attorneys, we know how frightening it can be to have a diagnosis of mesothelioma. However, we are here to help you and your family during this difficult time. To learn more, take the time to review our webpage on risk factors and mesothelioma.

Do you understand how to read a material safety data sheet?

As an employee, there may come a time when you need to read and understand a material safety data sheet (MSDS). This document provides information regarding the nature of…

As an employee, there may come a time when you need to read and understand a material safety data sheet (MSDS). This document provides information regarding the nature of a chemical, including but not limited to chemical properties, fire, safety, and health hazards.

While a material safety data sheet is designed for workers who could be exposed to a hazardous material, don’t be surprised if you come across this during some point in your employment.

All material safety data sheets must include the same information:

— Chemical identity.

— Manufacturer’s information.

— Hazardous ingredients.

— Physical and chemical characteristics.

— Fire and explosion hazard data.

— Reactivity data.

— Health hazard data.

— Precautions of safe handling and use.

— Control measures.

While it is good to know that material safety data sheets exist, some employees don’t know where to find them. For this reason, they could be exposed to a chemical that they know nothing about.

You can look in these places for a material safety data sheet:

— Employers must give employees access to all material safety data sheets.

— The employer is required to request material safety data sheets from the distributor.

— Your union.

As an employee, it is good to understand the materials you are working with. This is particularly true if they could be hazard to your health or cause injury.

The best thing you can do is review any and all material safety data sheets. This will ensure that you fully understand the chemicals you come in close contact with on a regular basis.

Source: UCLA Labor Occupational Safety & Health Program, “How do I read a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS)?,” accessed Dec. 01, 2015

How can employers transition to safer chemicals?

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, workers throughout the country use chemicals every day of the week. While many of these are dangerous, only some are regulated….

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, workers throughout the country use chemicals every day of the week. While many of these are dangerous, only some are regulated.

As a result of this use, workers suffer nearly 200,000 illnesses annually. Just as alarming is the fact that chemical exposure is associated with 50,000 workplace deaths.

Some companies have come to realize the importance of a chemical management system. Others, however, continue to put this off for one reason or another.

Companies can take many steps to reduce the impact of safer chemicals. Above all else, the reduction or elimination of chemical hazards should be considered. This is the best way to protect workers at all times.

In addition to improving the well being and safety of workers, there are many other benefits of a chemical management system. These include:

— Cost savings through the reduction of expenses and health risks.

— Improved performance.

— Industry leadership.

Transitioning to safer chemicals is not something that comes easy. Instead, it is a process that can take time and money. Despite the legwork up front, companies that make the change will benefit in many ways down the line.

Even with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration closely monitoring the use of dangerous chemicals, accidents continue to happen in many companies throughout the country. Additionally, an accident doesn’t have to occur for somebody to become ill. Simple chemical exposure is often enough.

As an employee, you need to understand the dangers of working around chemicals. If you become ill as a result, it is important to receive medical treatment and to avoid the same situation in the future.

Source: Occupational Safety and Health Administration, “Transitioning to Safer Chemicals: A Toolkit for Employers and Workers,” accessed Nov. 10, 2015

How to deal with toxins in the workplace

There are some types of companies in which toxins in the workplace are a daily occurrence. Even so, this does not mean that employees should be exposed. Instead, it…

There are some types of companies in which toxins in the workplace are a daily occurrence. Even so, this does not mean that employees should be exposed. Instead, it is imperative that they are kept protected at all times.

Any company can take steps to prevent or reduce toxin exposure. Not only should the company have a system and strategy in place for doing so, but employees should be aware of what is expected of them.

Some of the best ways to prevent exposure to toxins in the workplace include:

— Substitution. This includes the removal of a toxic material for one that is safer.

— Isolation. If toxins must be used, it is important that they are isolated from workers.

— Ventilation. This is one of the best ways to control toxins, ensuring that they are removed from the space before harming others.

— Personal protective equipment. Once again, there are times when workers will be exposed to toxins. As long as this is known — as long as it is expected — it gives workers the necessary time to put on equipment such as a mask, ventilator and protective clothing.

These are just a few of the many ways that companies and employees can deal with toxins in the workplace. What matters most is that direct exposure is avoided at all costs.

If a person is injured or becomes ill due to toxic exposure, it is important to receive immediate medical attention. Waiting for any reason could make the problem worse, thus putting the person in a more challenging position.

Source: FIndLaw, “Toxic Exposure in the Workplace,” accessed Oct. 13, 2015

Diesel exhaust and particulate matter is hazardous to workers

Today’s industrial workforce relies heavily upon equipment and machinery to complete important tasks. Many of these machines and conveyances use diesel engines, which often release toxic fumes into the…

Today’s industrial workforce relies heavily upon equipment and machinery to complete important tasks. Many of these machines and conveyances use diesel engines, which often release toxic fumes into the air through their exhaust systems. If not controlled, these fumes can be hazardous to the health of workers as well as other people in the vicinity.

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration has a lot to say about diesel exhaust and diesel particulate matter or DPM. OSHA describes these substances as soot particles containing ash, carbon, sulfates, silicates and metallic abrasion particles. Pennsylvania workers at particular risk of exposure to diesel matter include equipment operators, miners, oil and gas workers, vehicle maintenance workers and many others.

Some of the health hazards short-term exposure to DPMs and diesel exhaust can pose include mild conditions such as eye irritation, dizziness as well as irritation to the throat and nose. OSHA indicates that some of these more mild conditions can either disable or distract workers, increasing the risk to their health.

Diesel matter can also create more severe health conditions including lung cancer, respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease and cardiopulmonary disease. In fact, the risks are so great that the International Agency for Cancer research officially listed diesel exhaust and diesel particulate matter as known human carcinogens in June of 2012.

Exposure to diesel exhaust and particulate matter can be controlled or minimized with routine maintenance on diesel engines. Other preventative measures include using exhaust filters, using fuel additives, choosing cleaner burning engines and upgrading ventilation systems.

The takeaway here is that if employers or contractors take responsibility for the work environment they provide, it will likely result in minimal toxic exposure to dangerous diesel by-products. Those already suffering illness from exposure should consult with a local attorney to pursue workers’ compensation and other possible benefits.

Source: U.S. Department of Labor, “Diesel Exhaust/Diesel Particulate Matter,” accessed Sep. 08, 2015

Agency makes second attempt to reduce exposure to toxic material

Beryllium is a metal used across an array of industries including coal blasting space exploration and nuclear energy. It has become a valuable resource for engineers due to its…

Beryllium is a metal used across an array of industries including coal blasting space exploration and nuclear energy. It has become a valuable resource for engineers due to its lightweight strength and its ability to withstand the harsh environments many industries require. However, this material can also be deadly to many of the workers employed in these industries. It seems that just micro-sized amounts of beryllium dust and fumes can cause cancer as well as other major illnesses.

In 1975, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration made an attempt to tighten its standards regarding worker exposure to beryllium, but was defeated by the opposition of the secretaries of energy and defense. The opposition stemmed from beryllium’s critical use in the nuclear weapons industry, with the secretaries arguing that reducing worker exposure could compromise the nation’s defense strategies.

Now, OSHA is once again addressing industrial exposure to beryllium. On Thursday, August 6, OSHA proposed a set of new standards designed to reduce the acceptable level of exposure from two micrograms per an eight-hour shift to 0.2 micrograms per shift. OSHA staff members believe this reduction could save nearly 100 lives annually while also preventing up to 50 serious illnesses each year.

The new beryllium exposure standards could also benefit the nation, which has already paid compensation to some 2,500 nuclear weapons workers who have been diagnosed with chronic beryllium disease. OSHA also reports the use of beryllium in additional products such as space telescopes, dental appliances and golf clubs.

Hopefully, the new OSHA standards regarding beryllium exposure will soon be put into place, minimizing the risk of illnesses for workers in Pennsylvania. In the meantime, any worker in the state who believes he or she became ill because of beryllium will benefit from speaking with an attorney. A lawyer can help these victims with workers’ compensation insurance as well as third party lawsuits in some cases.

Source: The Center for Public Integrity, “OSHA seeks to reduce exposure to highly useful, highly toxic metal,” Jamie Smith Hopkins, Aug. 05, 2015

Skin dangers in the Moneroe County workplace

Some Lehigh Valley workers may worry about damage caused by breathing in toxic substances while on the job. Hazardous chemicals and other poisonous materials have several ways to enter…

Some Lehigh Valley workers may worry about damage caused by breathing in toxic substances while on the job. Hazardous chemicals and other poisonous materials have several ways to enter the body, including through an employee’s skin. Estimates state over 13 million U.S. workers are exposed to dangerous chemicals that cause occupational skin diseases or systemic harm.

You don’t have to be working in a laboratory to contract a skin disease or condition caused by toxic exposure. Cosmetologists, farmhands, food service employees and construction workers are among the victims of workplace exposure to hazardous chemicals.

Skin can be injured, irritated and infected due to direct exposure. Victims also can suffer systemic toxicity after substances like pesticides penetrate the skin and spread through the body.

Occupational skin diseases are common, particularly contact dermatitis or eczema, which is categorized as irritant or allergic contact dermatitis. In both cases, the skin becomes inflamed and responds with symptoms of swelling, redness, itching and pain. Blisters and flaky skin also may appear.

Contact dermatitis is responsible for up to 95 percent of all occupational skin diseases. Skin symptoms are triggered by direct exposure to a toxic substance in irritant dermatitis, the most prevalent form, or flare up due to an allergic reaction after repeated exposure to a harmful substance. Four out of every five work-related dermatitis cases are diagnosed as irritant contact dermatitis.

Determining whether dermatitis is due to direct irritation or an immunological response often requires a patch test. Damage also is assessed by factoring in how long a victim was exposed to a chemical or other toxin, the concentration of the substance, the skin’s health before exposure and the environment at the time of the accident.

MHK Attorneys can help injured and ill Pennsylvania workers file claims for workers’ compensation benefits. In some cases, legal action may be advisable to recover damages from negligent third parties.