When you hear the phrase "injured on the job", what images do you conjure up? For some, they imagine extensive physical injuries as a result of being crushed by equipment or long-term injuries from lifting heavy objects. While these are serious workplace injuries, there are other types of injuries that people experience.
For some of the workers at the Vestas plant in Windsor, CO their injuries appeared in the form of dermatitis. This painful skin condition is thought to have originated from the exposure to epoxy resin, a potentially harmful chemical. Despite the precautions Vestas has taken to protect their workers from epoxy exposure, at least 10 employees are believed to have contracted dermatitis.
Work-related injuries can lead to many consequences. The Vestas employees who have dermatitis are experiencing pain, itchiness, and even swelling that occurs. They had to adjust to new job positions as a result of Vestas' attempt to decrease any possible exposure. Some have been terminated as a result of their skin condition.
Workers with work-related injuries must consider the consequences. If medical treatment is necessary, they will have medical bills and lost wages for time off. The terminated employees also have to consider the loss of work benefits as well as whether they will receive severance pay.
To complicate the workers' compensation process even more, workers who were injured on the job deal with insurance companies. Insurance companies often have their own procedures and claims requirements that are confusing and can take a long time to process.
While it is admirable for Vestas to have safety precautions in place, the fact remains that there was still exposure to potentially dangerous chemicals that lead to work-related injuries. It seems unfair for the workers to bear the burden of their injuries on their own.
Source: ABC News, Denver online, "Report: Vestas Using Potentially Harmful Chemicals," Alan Gathright and Deb Stanley, 18 October 2010