Lab workers in New Jersey, as elsewhere, are protected under OSHA’s Occupational Exposure to Hazardous Chemicals in Laboratories Standards, otherwise known as the Laboratory Standard. Of course, whether employers fulfill this standard is another matter. Below are just a few of the steps that employers are supposed to take to protect their lab workers.
The standard first requires employers to designate a qualified individual as a chemical hygiene officer, who is in charge of coming up with a chemical hygiene plan and putting it into action. The plan must cover practices that limit workers’ exposure to hazardous chemicals, setting up things like engineering controls and rules for personal protective equipment. It may also touch on decontamination procedures and waste handling.
The plan must be in compliance with OSHA standards in other fields, such as the standards for respiratory protection. Employers may need to refer to standards on specific chemicals like benzene and methylene chloride.
Once the plan is in place, employers must have their employees properly trained about the hazards in a given work assignment, the symptoms of exposure, the permissible exposure limits and so on. Employers themselves must monitor exposure levels and keep their safety data sheets updated, including not just the substances produced in the laboratory but also the byproducts.
Under workers’ compensation law, employees injured as a result of work may receive benefits like wage replacement and even short- or long-term disability leave. If laboratory workers develop cancer or a respiratory disease and can link it to chemical exposure on the job, then they should be eligible for benefits. To ensure that they receive them, they may want to hire a lawyer to assist with an appeal should the claim be denied. Achieving a settlement is possible in this state.