Toxic hazards: Where to learn more in your workplace

Toxic exposure can catch employees off guard. Many people don't realize that they're being exposed to hazardous materials. If they are, they could develop illnesses nearly immediately or over several years, making it hard to link the disease to toxins in the workplace.

If you will be working with toxins in the workplace, your employer should provide you with more information about the toxins present. These are listed on a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS). The sheet gives you more information about the toxins you're around and on how to treat exposure. There is also information on disposal, the best protective measures and equipment and what to do if the toxin leaks or spills. MSDSs should be provided for every toxin in the workplace. If they are not readily available, then you can look online to obtain an MSDS sheet on the toxin you're concerned about.

A good idea for any employee is to read the labels on products you use every day. Hazardous materials hide in many of the products used regularly. Over time, exposure could lead to injuries, so it's important to know what you're exposed to.

The goal of any workplace should be to reduce or eliminate the presence of toxins. Employers can do this by substituting products, isolating hazards, ventilating work areas, changing operating practices to control exposure and by providing personal protective equipment.

Getting hurt on the job because of toxins and chemicals isn't acceptable. It's your employer's job to keep you safe and to provide you with good information about how to prevent accidents in the workplace.

Source: FindLaw, "Toxic Exposure in the Workplace," accessed April 18, 2018

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