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Bathroom refurbishers could be at risk of injuries, death

Denver bathroom refinishers know how much work it takes to completely strip a bathtub and other furniture of its previous coats of paint. In order to get down to the very base, some refurbishing companies provide their employees with methylene chloride, but this chemical may be putting Denver refinishers at risk. Between 2000 and 2011, 13 workers have died while using the chemical.

When a bathtub refinisher died in 2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention formed a study to look into worker safety and the use of this aircraft maintenance chemical in furniture refinishing. In the end, the CDC informed employers about the risks and dangers of allowing employees to use the chemical, especially in closed or confined areas, such as a bathroom. While this recommendation was the first link between methylene chloride and bathtub refurbishing, it is unclear if employers have actually warned their workers of the risk or stopped using the chemical altogether.

One of the authors of the CDC report has urged employers not to allow their employees to use the chemical in small spaces, such as bathrooms. He insists that there is no safe way to use the chemical to strip bathtubs and that employers need to find new ways to prepare bathtubs for new paint without putting their employees at risk.

While no employer can guarantee that an accident won't happen at work, they cannot knowingly put their employees at risk of sickness or death by insisting they improperly use dangerous chemicals. Colorado employees who are severely injured or family members of workers who have died while using methylene chloride, however, are able to file for workers' compensation or death and dependency benefits. Although these benefits won't restore a loved one back to where he or she was before a chemical accident, they will help families come to grips with what has happened.

Source: CBC News, "Bathtub refinishing chemical linked to U.S. deaths," Marlene Habib, Feb. 24, 2012

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