Are workers’ compensation benefits available for lead poisoning?

Every industry in Colorado has its unique hazards, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration prescribes regulations and guidelines that employers must enforce to ensure workplace safety. However, workers’ compensation claims for benefits follow many injuries caused by safety violations. Occupational injuries do not all result from accidents; some can be caused by a disease. One type of workplace in which workers may not even be aware of their exposure to health hazards is indoor firing ranges in which exceptionally high risks of lead poisoning exist.

Exposure to excessive levels of lead can cause mental impairment, and employers must take precautions to limit the levels of airborne lead dust. When lead bullets or primers that contain lead are shot from a firearm, the gun smoke that is created contains lead dust that is inhaled by unprotected workers. Lead exposure is also caused when shot bullets are fragmented and deformed, and cleaning firearms or handling spent cartridges exposes the skin to lead.

When indoor firing ranges are not equipped with specialized air conditioning, heating and ventilation systems, the airborne lead will not be adequately removed. Cleaning procedures that involve dry sweeping, vacuum cleaners that are not high-efficiency particulate air systems, and compressed air will only exacerbate the hazards because it will disperse lead particles, which can be inhaled. Lead particles can adhere to workers’ skins or clothing and be carried home to also expose a person’s loved ones to the risk of lead poisoning.

The Colorado workers’ compensation insurance program allows injured workers — whether injured by accident or disease — to file benefits claims if they can show that their injuries were work-related. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can assist with the navigation of the claims process. If claims are successful, medical expenses and lost wages will be covered.

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