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Workplace illness turns deadly during bathtub refinishing

Different Connecticut workplaces present different types of hazards. Construction workers are at risk for falling off scaffolding and being injured by machinery on the job. Shipyard workers may be exposed to asbestos and associated asbestos-related illnesses. Some workplace hazards and their attendant occupational illnesses may be more surprising, however, as was the case in a fatality that occurred after a worker was refinishing a bathtub.

Tragically, a worker died after using chemicals to refinish a bathtub. The worker poured paint remover into a bathtub and then began scraping. He subsequently became sick in the small bathroom that had only a partially-open window for ventilation. The paint remover contained 85 - 90 percent methylene chloride. The worker died from a combination of acute methylene chloride toxicity and asphyxiation. When a working environment is not properly ventilated, methylene chloride vapors can become toxic and reduce the level of oxygen in a space to unsafe levels.

Frighteningly, this worker's employer had a warning about the dangers of methylene chloride following a similar incident in the past in which the employer had to take the worker to the hospital. Nonetheless, the employer did not comply with OSHA's methylene chloride safety standards or enforce appropriate safe work practices to ensure that employees were protected from such work-related illnesses. The employer could have provided a chemical substitute to clean the bathtub, as well as provided personal protective equipment or an air respirator for the worker.

With proper safety precautions, this tragic accident should have been preventable. If you or a loved one is working in what you believe to be an unsafe environment and have become ill or otherwise injured, you may wish to consult with an attorney regarding your rights.

Source: OSHA, "OSHA FatalFacts: Lethal Exposure to Methylene Chloride during Bathtub Refinishing," accessed Sep. 16, 2016

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