Workers in foundries and other metal processing plants in Illinois and across the country are at significant risk of developing long-term health problems. The risk is exacerbated because the damage only becomes evident when it is already at an advanced stage. Unlike any other serious injury, like a fractured leg that can be treated immediately, toxic metal dust can accumulate in the body of a worker without his or her knowledge.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires employers to protect workers from known hazards. Workers must also be informed of all the potential dangers to which their jobs will expose them. Furthermore, the necessary personal protective equipment must be provided.
OSHA recently announced the outcome of a 2019 inspection at a foundry in a neighboring state. Inspectors determined that employees were exposed to excessive levels of copper and lead dust without respiratory protection. The agency noted that damage to the lungs and nervous system can result from chronic toxic metal exposure. Fines exceeding $170,000 were proposed for the failure of the business to minimize exposure, among other safety violations.
Illinois workers who suffer the consequences of toxic metal exposure or any other serious injury are typically eligible for workers’ compensation insurance benefits to cover their medical expenses and lost wages. However, it is never easy to prove an outwardly invisible injury to be work-related. Many workers choose to retain the services of an attorney with experience in dealing with challenging workers’ compensation issues to navigate the benefits claims process for them.