While similar hazards may exist in all California workplaces, others are unique to particular industries. Many of the workers' compensation claims that are filed each year arose from exposure to hazardous chemicals. Safety authorities require employers to inform employees of the risks posed by chemicals with which they have to work, and employers must also provide the necessary personal protective equipment.
Employees that work with paints, shellac, varnishes, adhesives, metal cleaners and glue might be at risk of excessive exposure to toluene. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration describes it as a clear, colorless liquid that could be present as a component in solvents and chemicals. When toluene is exposed to room temperature air, it becomes a hazardous vapor.
The risk is exacerbated if spray applicators are used and if the ventilation is ineffective. Toluene poses several risks, including inhalation of the vapors and fumes, skin contact, and unintentional ingestion. Workers could develop nose and eye irritation, and they could experience weakness, exhaustion and confusion. Exposure to the chemical can cause anxiety, headaches, insomnia, dermatitis or a tingling sensation of the skin. Those who suffer long-term exposure might suffer damage to their central nervous systems, kidneys and livers.
Although the California workers' compensation insurance system covers all work-related injuries and illnesses, some conditions -- like toluene exposure -- might be difficult to prove as being work-related. For that reason, many affected workers seek the support and guidance of an experienced workers' compensation attorney. With the help of legal counsel, the chances of receiving maximum compensation will be vastly increased.