Employers in Georgia who have laboratory workers are probably aware that OSHA has standards that are meant to protect their health. Called the Occupational Exposure to Hazardous Chemicals in Laboratories Standard, it lays down all the basic steps that employers must take. Below is a brief outline.
The first step is to have a qualified individual act as a chemical hygiene officer, who creates and implements a chemical hygiene plan. The goal of the plan should be to limit lab workers’ exposure to harmful chemicals. Permissible exposure limits must be set. The CHO must determine what personal protective equipment and what engineering controls are needed. The plan may also cover procedures like decontamination and waste handling.
Next, employers must ensure adequate training for employees, who should know, for example, what hazards are present in a given work assignment and what the symptoms of chemical exposure are. They should be familiar with the information given in safety data sheets.
Employers should make sure the data sheets cover all chemicals, including those produced in the lab and those that are byproducts. Continual monitoring for exposure is essential. Employers are expected to keep track of all monitoring data as well as any medical evaluations that employees undergo. The chemical hygiene plan should be updated at least once a year.
If employers fail to take these steps, they raise the risk for on-the-job injuries. Fortunately, those who are injured can seek benefits under workers’ compensation law. These benefits include wage replacement and reimbursement for medical expenses. Unlike with a personal injury claim, victims do not need to prove anyone’s negligence, but if they themselves were negligent, they may face opposition from their employer. For this and other reasons, victims may want a lawyer on their case.