Benzene is a chemical used in a number of different industries. Workers in the rubber, steel, oil and gasoline industries are some of the most at risk. Unfortunately, companies do not always provide proper safety measures.
You can be overexposed to benzene by breathing it in as a gas, or absorbing it through the skin. Benzene exposure is linked to cancer – especially leukemia and other blood cancers.
Employees have a right to work in a safe environment. What can you do if you think that your company is not taking proper safety precautions?
What should your company be doing?
Your company needs to limit employee exposure to benzene. Legally, they cannot have over 1 ppm of benzene gas in the air during a workday, or over 5 ppm for a 15-minute period of time. They can limit exposure by:
- Replacing benzene with a safer chemical
- Enclosing benzene so that it cannot splash on workers
- Installing ventilation hoods to keep benzene gas out of the air
- Providing employees with respirators and other protective equipment
- Regularly undergo extensive OSHA safety inspections
What are some signs of benzene exposure?
- Increased heart rate
- Irritated skin, eyes or throat
What are the long-term health concerns of benzene exposure?
Benzene harms bone marrow, the area of the body responsible for creating new blood cells. This can lead to anemia, a low white blood cell count, a low platelet count and cancer. Benzene may harm fertility, but this has yet to be proven.
What should you do if you are exposed to benzene?
If you experience symptoms of benzene exposure, leave the area immediately. Remove articles of clothing that touched benzene, wash your skin with soap and water and visit a doctor for a full examination.
If you believe that you have been exposed to unsafe levels of benzene for a longer period of time, visit a doctor. They can perform tests to determine the level of benzene in your body.
Consider contacting a lawyer who can help you evaluate whether your company exposed you to dangerous levels of benzene. Medical bills from benzene-related injuries or sickness can be expensive. A lawyer can help you gain compensation to cover your costs.