California owners of industrial companies where dangerous chemicals are used have a huge responsibility in protecting employees against the potential hazards of exposure. The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health prescribes strict safety regulations for such industries. Companies are required to inform regulatory agencies of the use of particular chemicals. In a recent lawsuit, a paint company in Fullerton consented to paying $950,000 following the 2011 death of a worker in an industrial accident.
The company uses methylene chloride as part of its manufacturing process, and the court found that a worker's death was caused by exposure to this hazardous chemical. Safety regulations require proper control of methylene chloride, and there are specific protective equipment requirements, along with personal hygiene procedures, to be followed. Cal/OSHA also prescribes that any personnel working with methylene chloride should be adequately trained.
The paint company was accused of being in violation of a prior injunction related to the unsafe use of methylene chloride containing substances. They failed to ensure proper ventilation where the toxic chemical was used. Methylene chloride is a carcinogen, and exposure may lead to cancer and even death. Symptoms of exposure include mental confusion, headache and nausea.
The settlement amount will be apportioned to Cal/OSHA, charities and penalties, with the bulk going to the victim's surviving family members. It was reported that another worker had been injured in the same industrial accident. California workers may pursue compensation by claiming benefits from the company's workers' compensation insurance fund. Workers are typically covered for medical expenses, wage recovery and disability benefits. Families who lose loved ones in workplace accidents have the option to claim death benefits.
Source: Los Angeles Times, "Fullerton paint company to pay nearly $1 million in worker's death", Matt Hamilton, Jan. 7, 2015