According to the latest report issued by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Oregon workers in the private industry suffered more than 51,000 nonfatal workplace injuries in 2019, the most recent year for public data. That figure equates to 3.9 cases of injury or illness for every 100 workers, placing Oregon among the top 20 states with an incident rate “significantly” higher than the national average of 2.8 per 100 workers.
The statistics do not break down the injuries and illnesses by categories, such as musculoskeletal or back injuries or chemical exposure, but the group of industries listed with the highest incident rate is described as “service providing.”
Employees who handle or work around chemicals and other potentially toxic substances can fall victim to exposure and suffer injuries or illnesses that can sideline them from work for extended periods of time.
If you’re suffered an injury or illness due to occupational exposure in or around Beaverton, Oregon, or in the neighboring communities of Eugene, Salem, or Portland, contact the Law Office of Michael J. Orlando.
Attorney Michael J. Orlando spent more than a decade as an insurance adjuster, auditor, and supervisor before launching his own legal practice representing clients with workers’ compensation claims. Contact us to help you file your claim and obtain the compensation you deserve, or to file an appeal for a denied claim.
What Is Occupational Exposure?
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) defines “occupational exposure” as “reasonably anticipated skin, eye, mucous membrane, or parenteral contact with blood or other potentially infectious materials that may result from the performance of an employee's duties.”
OSHA also maintains what it calls a Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) mandating that manufacturers and employers disseminate information about chemical and toxic substance hazards in the workplace, along with the need for personal protective equipment (PPE) while handling these substances. The agency also promulgates what it calls permissible exposure limits (PELs) for various substances.
Oregon OSHA, or OR-OSHA, which is authorized by Fed-OSHA to run its own safety and health enforcement program, has published its own list of PELs that is stricter than federal PELs.
Exposure to chemical or toxic substances can come through contact with the skin, inhalation, or even accidental ingestion. The chemical substances themselves can take a variety of forms, including solids, liquids, dusts, vapors, gases, fibers, mists, and fumes. Some chemicals and substances used or found in the workplace that can pose a risk of exposure include:
Symptoms of exposure include:
Itchy, burning eyes
Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
Fever or chills
Rapid heart rate
Exposure can have both acute (short-term) and chronic (long-term) effects. Acute effects show up immediately, like the symptoms listed above. Depending on the individual and the type and length of exposure, those symptoms may lead to chronic effects, such as brain or nerve damage, which may not show up until months or years later but are likely permanent.
If you are injured or fall ill at work due to occupational exposure, you will be covered by Oregon’s workers’ compensation system. Workers’ compensation is a no-fault program, meaning neither you nor your employer can be judged responsible. On the flip side, it also prevents you from filing a lawsuit against your employer.
If you are exposed to chemicals or toxins at work, you should seek immediate medical evaluation and help. You should also inform your employer, who will provide you with the appropriate form to report your claim to workers’ compensation. Alternately, while at your physician’s office, you can file a form to begin the claims process.
Your employer’s workers’ compensation insurer will thereafter be responsible for covering your medical expenses and providing compensation for any wages lost due to recovery time off from work, though only at only two-thirds of your average weekly wage.
If your claim is denied for whatever reason, you have 60 days to file an appeal with the state’s Workers’ Compensation Board.
Occupational exposure to chemicals or toxins is not like a physical injury such as a cut or fracture that is expected to heal after a given period. The chemicals or toxins can stay in your system and affect your internal organs over time, so you may be facing both initial symptoms that lessen or go away, allowing you to return to work, and also potential long-term effects that won’t appear until much later.
If you’ve been involved in an occupational exposure, you need to obtain the services of an attorney experienced in both workers’ compensation and the injury/illness you have suffered. Since occupational exposure can have lingering, long-term effects, you’ll want to provide as much medical evidence as possible when filing your claim. We can help you assemble all the appropriate documentation and evidence to press your claim.
At the Law Office of Michael J. Orlando we will evaluate your situation and advise you of the best steps going forward, whether it’s for an initial claim or to file an appeal after a denial. Your best option in any occupational exposure incident is to contact us immediately after it has occurred, and not wait until you run into roadblocks with your claim.
The Law Office of Michael J. Orlando proudly serves clients in and around Beaverton, Oregon, including nearby Portland, Salem, and Eugene.