Hazardous Substances At Work: What To Do If You Think You’ve Been Poisoned


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Health and safety is pretty tight nowadays, but with new chemicals constantly being developed and effects often only showing up after long-term exposure, you can never be completely safe when working with hazardous substances. If you believe that you may be suffering from chemical poisoning, here are is the action you should take.

The symptoms

Depending on the substance, symptoms will vary. Generally if you’re feeling light-headed, queasy, are suffering from headaches or have noticed an unnecessarily fast/uneven heart rate, this should be cause for concern.

Other substances can cause bad rashes when exposed to bare skin. Bottled chemicals will always come with clear side effects so that you know what to look for. If you’re involved in the direct manufacturing of such chemicals, there should still be a safety manual or some kind of notice explaining possible side effects.

Later down the line, such exposure may cause birth defects or developments of deadly diseases such as cancer. It’s always best to seek medical advice as soon as you feel unwell to prevent such poisoning turning into anything more serious.

See a doctor

A doctor will be able to take samples such as blood tests and urine tests and measure these for chemical poisoning. Depending on the severity of the poisoning, you will then either be prescribed drugs, told to take time off work or transferred to a hospital for further tests.

Taking legal action

If you have been diagnosed sick through chemical poisoning you have a right to seek legal action against your workplace. Even if you were given safety equipment, you should consider hiring a lawyer (safety equipment may not have been adequate enough). Chemicals such as lead and benzene are some of the most common toxins in the workplace, known in some cases to have carcinogenic effects. There are many specialist law firms that will provide litigation for benzene lawsuits. Even large companies will often pay out to avoid further controversy (many will have insurance schemes that cover such payments). Compensation could enable you to pay for further medical treatment if serious.

Preventative measures

If you suspect your company may be using hazardous chemicals without them being clearly warned about, you should first tell your boss, and then consider hiring a risk assessor if they fail to take any action.

If you’re a business owner yourself and you are worried about chemical use, you can organise your own risk assessment. If chemicals do not turn out to be hazardous, you can take action by supplying appropriate equipment or find an alternative. For example, many companies have started replacing benzene with toluene to limit exposure. For cleaning fluids, going bio-friendly might be a safer option. In some cases you may have to put in a little more elbow grease, but more often not such products will be just as effective. Providing appropriate training and an easily accessible manual for new workers is also a recommended strategy for dealing with hazardous substances.