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Workplace injuries: Chemical hazard warning system fails

California workers in facilities in which refrigeration units form part of the workplace environment need protection against exposure to hazardous chemicals. Workplace injuries caused by toxic gases and fumes can be lethal. Those who survive such exposure often suffer life-long health consequences.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently cited a company in another state for allowing the escape of anhydrous ammonia. The company -- one of the largest food distributors in the country -- may have to pay $72,000 in penalties. OSHA investigators determined that nine pounds of the dangerous gas escaped without warning.

It was found that the check valve that was designed to sound an alarm in the event of an ammonia leak malfunctioned. OSHA said that although this was not a massive leak, even the most insignificant leakage can be life-threatening. Inhalation can also cause severe respiratory and lung problems. A concentration of anhydrous ammonia at only 300 parts per million can apparently cause death.

Any worker in California who has been exposed to toxic chemicals may suffer long-term health consequences that may impact on his or her ability to continue working. Victims of workplace injuries of any type may pursue compensation for medical expenses. Benefits claims may be filed with the workers' compensation insurance fund. In some cases, it is difficult to prove that an illness is occupational, and the services of an experienced workers' compensation attorney may be invaluable. If the benefits claim is successful, the program will provide coverage of all medical expenses along with a portion of lost income.

Source: ohsonline.com, "Ammonia Leak and Alarm Failure Highlight Chemical Hazard at Food Distribution Center", May 11, 2016

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