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Injured workers: What are the dangers of solvents in workplaces?

In Colorado and other states, millions of employees are exposed to hazardous solvents every day. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health explains that solvents are those substances that are capable of dispersing or dissolving other substances. Solvents are mostly liquid materials but could also come in gas form. When it comes to organic solvents, there are three general types -- halogenated solvents, oxygenated solvents and hydrocarbon solvents. Injured workers are affected in different manners, depending on the type of solvent to which they are exposed.

Occupations that typically expose workers to dangerous solvents include those that require vapor degreasing, dip cleaning, fueling, painting and paint stripping. Hazards are also posed by glue and adhesive manufacturing processes, along with transferring of flammable liquids. Carpet installers, offset printers and dry cleaners may also be adversely affected, as well as those who clean automotive parts, electronics and circuit boards. Employees in plants where soap, personal care products, semiconductors and printed circuit boards are manufactured are also at risk.

While employers may provide gloves and coveralls to prevent contact with dangerous solvents, more protection is required. The hazardous substances can be absorbed through the skin, ingestion and inhalation. For that reason, respiratory protection is equally important. The health issues that are typically brought about by solvent exposure include damage to the reproductive system, the nervous system, kidneys and liver damage, dermatitis, respiratory impairment, cancer and more.

Injured workers in Colorado who have suffered health damage from unprotected exposure to hazardous solvents may require long-term treatment and extended periods of workplace absence. The financial consequences can be devastating to any family. Fortunately, financial assistance is available through the workers' compensation insurance system. Victims may claim benefits that typically cover medical expenses and lost income.

Source: benzinga.com, "Protecting Workers and the Public from Solvent Exposure Hazards", April 10, 2017

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