Storm damage: OSHA still testing worker exposure to toxic substances

Massachusetts and much of the Northeast is about to get hammered with another major storm. This time it's a winter storm. But it was only a few months ago that Hurricane Sandy killed numerous people in several states and caused millions of dollars of property damage in Massachusetts alone.

With damage so extensive, it is only natural to be concerned about work injuries. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has been looking into the matter regarding contamination from the Sandy cleanup that could expose workers to health hazards.

OSHA's environmental testing activities are not yet complete. So far it has only completed the first round of testing. Last month, the agency announced some preliminary results. It said that recovery workers had been exposed to numerous potential hazards, including asbestos, carbon monoxide and silica.

To date, OSHA said, exposure levels to these and other harmful materials have not been in excess of the agency's designated limits. Those limits are known as Permissible Exposure limits.

OSHA's regional administrator in New York cautioned, however, that these first-round tests are hardly an "all clear" signal. Employers must continue to recognize that employees working at sites affected by Hurricane Sandy could face exposure to many potential health threats from toxic substances. These substances include asbestos, lead and mold.

It should also be noted that adverse health effects from toxic exposure may not be immediately evident. Someone may be exposed on the job, but only become sick later. So it is good that OSHA is not giving an all-clear sign. Because the danger to workers from Sandy and other superstorms is hardly over.

Source: "Sandy workers' contaminant exposures under permissible limits: OSHA," Business Insurance, Matt Dunning, 1-11-13

Our firm handles situations similar to those discussed in this post in Massachusetts For more information about our practice, please visit our Massachusetts work injury page.

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