Demolition workers face some of the most hazardous working conditions imaginable. By its nature, demolition work can fill the air with a number of toxic substances which can cause workplace illnesses. This hazard is serious by itself, but demolition work is made even more dangerous because workers are often unaware of the nature of the toxic substances they may be releasing. Even when the hazards are known, some employers fail to take sufficient steps to eliminate or reduce them. For example, a demolition contractor based in Plainville, Connecticut, has been cited by the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration for safety violations on a job site in New Hampshire.
The project involved dismantling a mercury boiler. Workers complained to OSHA that they were being exposed to elevated levels of mercury and that the employer was not taking sufficient steps to minimize the hazard. OSHA sent inspectors to the site and confirmed the workers’ beliefs that they were being exposed high levels of mercury. Moreover, the paper-like masks that cover the lower half of the face, known as “respirators,” that were furnished to employees had not been evaluated for their effectiveness.
The OSHA official with jurisdiction over the New Hampshire work site said that the hazards were preventable, stating that “high mercury exposure can result in permanent nervous system and kidney damage.” OSHA cited the company for two willful and six serious violations involving mercury, respirators, protective clothing, and unsanitary conditions. OSHA levied total penalties of $329,548 in connection with the violations.
Anyone who has suffered an illness caused by an airborne toxic substance at a work site is entitled to workers’ compensation benefits for lost wages, medical expenses, and temporary and permanent disability. A worker may also be entitled to additional compensation if the exposure was caused by a party other than the worker’s employer. A knowledgeable workers’ compensation lawyer can provide a helpful evaluation of the facts and law of the case and provide an estimate of the amount of workers’ compensation benefits and other damages that may be recoverable.
Source: WorkersCompensation.com, “Connecticut Contractor Cited for Mercury and Respirator Hazards at New Hampshire Demolition Site,” Dec. 4, 2017