The Law Firm of Leisawitz Heller

The various threats posed by hazardous chemicals

Hazardous chemicals pose risks in just about every workplace in Pennsylvania, and even substances used for cleaning can be toxic. Although the Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires your employer to inform you of all the potential hazards of your job, safety training about the dangers posed by chemicals is often neglected. It might be up to you to learn how to prevent toxic chemicals from entering your body.

There are strict regulations about the safe storage of dangerous chemicals, the labeling requirements and the availability of safety datasheets. The way in which you come into contact and also the amount and type of chemical will determine the level of the risk.

Routes of entry

Toxic chemicals can cause permanent health problems by entering your body in any of the following ways:

  • Ingestion: If you inadvertently get corrosive or irritating chemicals into your mouth, swallowing it could damage your gastrointestinal tract. Some substances can gain access to your bloodstream through the digestive tract and cause harm to your organs.
  • Inhalation: Airborne fumes or gases of chemicals can enter your body through inhalation, often without your knowledge. Along with damage to your respiratory tract, it could go on to cause severe destruction to tissues and organs.
  • Absorption: Toxic chemicals that get onto your skin or splash into your eyes can lead to blindness or tissue destruction. Some substances can go through your skin, enter your bloodstream and cause systemic organ problems.
  • Injection: This is the least likely route of entry, and happens when a sharp contaminated object penetrates your skin. Once in your bloodstream, the chemical can cause significant internal damage.


Your employer must provide easy access to the safety data sheets for all the chemicals with which you work, and also training in what to do in emergencies. Make sure to wear appropriate personal protective equipment like goggles, a respirator, chemical gloves, a face shield, and other equipment to prevent chemicals from entering your body. Proper ventilation is essential for areas in which chemical hazards are present.

What to do after exposure to hazardous chemicals

If you have to deal with the consequences of chemical exposure, you might also have to cope with medical expenses and lost wages. The Pennsylvania workers' compensation system would likely provide benefits to cover those losses. However, the claims process could be challenging, especially if the health damage only becomes evident after years of exposure. Fortunately, an experienced workers compensation attorney can take over the claims process to ensure you receive maximum benefits under applicable laws.

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