Factory workers in California and other states expect their employers to provide safe working environments where they will be free of injury or illness hazards. Unfortunately, company owners sometimes fail to show concern for their workers, and in some cases, workers spend years fighting for their rights. Such a case was recently investigated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration after workers have been complaining of being exposed to work-related illness for some years.
The company manufactures foam cushions for Hyundai vehicles, and workers say that they are periodically exposed to breathing hazards caused by isocyanates, a chemical used in the manufacturing process. Some workers claim to suffer from respiratory illnesses including asthma, bronchitis and chronic coughing. Until now, the company has denied allegations that airborne isocyanates were present, but blood tests analyzed at a university revealed that there were signs of significant exposure to this chemical present in the blood of some workers.
OSHA determined that the company failed to warn workers about the health hazards posed by the chemicals used in the production process. In addition, workers were not issued with protective equipment to avoid skin contact as the chemical could be absorbed by the skin. It is reported that medical professionals have confirmed that respiratory illness may result from physical contact with isocyanates.
Workers in California who are exposed to chemicals that may adversely affect their health may benefit by taking timely action. In cases where an employer fails to react to complaints about health hazards, employees may choose to consult with a workers' compensation attorney to obtain information on remedies for the situation. Workers suffering from a work-related illness are entitled to seek benefits from the workers' compensation insurance fund. However, the process may be complicated, and the guidance of a legal professional may be necessary.
Source: NBC News, "Selma, Alabama Plant Faces OSHA Citations, Fines", Seth Freed, Nov. 25, 2014