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Dangerous chemicals can cause respiratory work injury

In Colorado and nationwide, there are growing problems of chemical threats at work. This is partly because companies continue to use new and unknown chemicals in their manufacturing processes. In one example, a Yale University lab test found levels of a potentially dangerous compound in the blood of four co-workers who suffered a work injury consisting of respiratory difficulties.

A report on the NBC news program “NBC News Dateline” revealed also that eight current and three past employees of the company suffered breathing difficulties working at the plant. The compound, called toluene diisocyanate (TDI), is used to make foam for car seats. The company has offered three production line workers transfers to new jobs due to their respiratory difficulties.

The workers, however, rejected the offers because they fear for their co-workers who will stay behind and continue to be exposed. The employer reports that the site has undergone four separate inspections and investigations, including by OSHA. The company says that nothing has been found so far.

Nonetheless, the affected workers insist that the chemical offender must be removed. One worker expressed her opinion that “no one should have to work in that kind of environment.” Although the employer contends that it takes the complaints seriously, it notes that no employees have filed a workers’ compensation claim or otherwise notified the company of their problems.

One of the affected employees says that she went to the human resources department with her concerns about a year prior and nothing was done. She alleges that the company did not even make or file an incident report. The conflict shows, nonetheless, how workers may sometimes hurt their protections by not reporting symptoms promptly.

A worker is duly protected under Colorado law by filing a prompt workers’ compensation claim. A work injury that is not reported and processed on a claim form gives the employer a good issue for denying later claims by contending that the symptoms are not work-related. The worker should see a doctor quickly and should make a claim through the employer for the services to be paid by workers’ compensation.

Source: Montgomery Advertiser, "Chemical claims pit workers against auto supplier", Brad Harper, July 23, 2014

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