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Hazardous Materials In The Workplace


There is a reason that poisons and toxins are labeled as hazardous materials: contact with them can be injurious to your health, and even fatal. If you are experiencing injuries due to a workplace exposure to hazardous materials, chances are your employer has some liability. An attorney experienced in personal injury litigation could be helpful in determining next steps.

Classification of Hazardous Materials

Hazardous materials (HM’s)are classified as such by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration This list includes:

  • Irritants;
  • Highly toxic chemicals;
  • Carcinogens;
  • Corrosives;
  • Target organ effects.

These materials exist in abundance in this country. Many make their way into the environment in the course of handling and transport mistakes. The most frequently released toxins include:

  • Carbon monoxide;
  • Ammonia;
  • Chlorine;
  • Hydrochloric acid;
  • Sulfuric acid.

The substances most frequently related to injuries, evacuations, and deaths are ammonia and carbon monoxide. In an industry setting, the most frequently released substances include chlorine, hydrochloric acid, and ammonia.

The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act

The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act manages solid and hazardous wastes in Florida.  All handlers are all held to exacting permitting and recordkeeping regulations intended to track these materials from “cradle to grave.” Thus, any garbage, refuse, sludge or discarded materials, in any form, from gaseous to solid, is managed by the RCRA, with limited exceptions. Materials are considered hazardous based on four specific criteria:

  • Toxicity;
  • Reactivity;
  • Ignitability;
  • Corrosiveness.

Requirements for Handling Hazardous Waste

There is no complacency with regard to hazardous materials in the state of Florida. Strict guidelines, often more stringent than federal rules, oversee all aspects of managing and handling these materials.

  • Employees must be fully trained in the handling of HM’s, including in emergency responses;
  • Accurate and complete records of transport, manifests, and test results must be maintained for a minimum of 3 years;
  • Materials must be properly packaged and labeled with the words Hazardous Materials prominently displayed;
  • Emergency equipment must be readily available, including:
    • Two-way radios and/or phones;
    • Alarm systems;
    • Fire extinguishers, sprinklers, and other fire/spill control materials;
    • Neutralizing agents, spill absorbents, and other standby materials;
    • Records of testing and maintenance of emergency equipment.
  • Aisle space must be adequate for emergency evacuations;
  • Materials must be inspected weekly for security;
  • Fences, containment areas and other precautions are highly recommended;
  • All alarm, communications and response systems must be regularly tested and maintained.

Symptoms of Exposure to Toxic Materials

While some reactions to hazardous materials, particularly low-dose exposure that occurs over an extended period of time, may take days, months, or even years to become evident, others are immediate. These reactions to a limited, but high dose exposure to a toxin are frequently acute. A physician should examine anyone who has suffered exposure to a hazardous toxin immediately, particularly if symptoms include:

  • Central nervous system impacts, including irritability, dizziness, drowsiness, sleeplessness, tremors, headaches, and/or problems with coordination or balance. Severe exposures may result in confusion, lack of consciousness, and even death;
  • Irritation to the eyes or skin;
  • Difficulty breathing, coughing, sneezing, or sore throat;
  • Vomiting or aspiration into the lungs.
  • Diarrhea;
  • Reproductive issues.

Reach Out to Us for Help Today

If you have been exposed to hazardous chemicals in the workplace, contact the experienced legal team at the Law Offices of Robert W. Elton in Daytona and Ormond Beach. You’ll find a dedicated team of attorneys who will handle your claim aggressively.