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Colorado gas workers may need workman's comp for benzene exposure

Employers are obligated to keep the safety of their employees a top priority. This means ensuring that they have a risk-free work environment, adequate training and functional equipment, and that other safety measures are in place. However, some employees are still at-risk for illness or injury because their companies are not required to follow certain guidelines to which other industries are subject. They may end up filing for workman's comp, as some Colorado natural gas workers may have to do, according to reports of increased exposure to a potentially harmful chemical -- benzene.

The chemical benzene is said to be a cancer-causing component that is found in flowback water from the fracking process, though it is also present in gasoline and cigarette smoke. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration typically limits the amount of benzene that is permitted to be exposed in a particular workplace, though many oil and gas companies have an exemption from those regulations. A recent study took measurements of the levels of chemical exposure that well site employees in two states -- including Colorado -- experience, and it claims that it found those levels to be higher than what is said to be safe.

The study collected both air samples and employee urine samples, the latter of which can show just how much benzene employees may have absorbed. Experts say that exposure to benzene can cause leukemia and other blood-related cancers. The researchers who did this study say they want to expand it to other states to get a clearer picture of potential effects, and they concede that this initial study was conducted on a small amount of people.

If any of these Colorado employees do develop cancer due to benzene exposure, they may be able to file a workman's comp claim. Doing so could give them a way to cover any necessary treatment or other expenses due to a work-related illness. It is just one of the many reasons that workers’ compensation exists -- to care for employees.

Source: stateimpact.npr.org, "New study shows gas workers could be exposed to dangerous levels of benzene", Susan Phillips, Aug. 28, 2014

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