Toxic exposures in workplaces must be minimized

Some workers face exposure to toxic chemicals as a part of their job duties. It’s up to their employers to ensure that the risks from these are minimized. There are many ways to do this. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) has a pyramid of hierarchy to help employers determine methods to use to keep the exposure of toxins to a minimum.

At the bottom of the pyramid, and the least effective measure, is the use of personal protective equipment (PPE). This means that there is a barrier between the workers’ bodies and the toxic substance. Respirators, gloves, goggles and other similar items are all common PPE items.

Next up is administrative and work practice controls. This means that workers and employers all do things that help to reduce the chance that the toxic exposure will result in adverse health effects. This may mean only opening containers of the toxic substance when absolutely necessary and closing them immediately after. It can also include the cleaning steps to take after handling the substance.

Third is engineering controls. The employer takes steps to modify the workplace to make working with the toxic substance safer. In some cases, this might include something like installing air scrubbers, but it can also involve steps like closing off areas where the substance is being used.

At the top of the pyramid, and the safest measure, is using an alternative to the toxic substance. This completely eliminates the risk to the workers.

When a worker suffers adverse health effects because of toxins in the workplace, they might need medical care. Workers’ compensation can provide those benefits, as well as any others to which the worker is entitled.

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