If you work with hazardous substances, you are at risk for developing kidney damage due to persistent chemical exposure. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires employers to take measures to protect employees, but some employers shirk their duties in favor of saving money. Personal injury attorneys have experience filing lawsuits against employers that put employees at risk for job-related illnesses by failing to follow the rules. While you wait to talk to an attorney, here are some steps you can take to protect yourself against additional kidney damage.
1. Choose the right gloves for handling hazardous substances.
OSHA requires employers to identify the hazards present in a workplace and ensure employees wear protective barriers to limit their exposure to these hazards. Employers must also train employees to put on, adjust, and remove their personal protective equipment. Wearing gloves is one way to limit your contact with hazardous chemicals and reduce your risk of kidney damage. Instead of wearing disposable gloves, use chemical-resistance gloves made of neoprene, rubber, vinyl, or polyvinyl alcohol.
2. Remove contaminated clothing before leaving work each day.
Your employer is responsible for cleaning contaminated protective clothing under 29 CFR 1910.266(d)(1)(v). If an employer chooses to send contaminated clothing to a commercial laundry service, OSHA requires the company to notify laundry workers of the potential hazards associated with handling a particular chemical. You can reduce your risk of sustaining job-related kidney damage by removing contaminated clothing at the end of your shift. If your employer asks you to wash contaminated clothing at home, contact OSHA to report this violation of federal occupational safety standards.
3. Wear protective clothing to prevent hazardous chemicals from coming into contact with your skin.
Always wear protective footwear, long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and an apron when working with hazardous substances. Choose shoes or boots made from waterproof or chemically resistant materials to prevent hazardous chemicals from eating through your footwear. Under 29 CFR 1910.132(h), your employer is not obligated to pay for pants, shirts, and footwear that you are allowed to wear off the premises. Employers must provide aprons, specialty footwear, and protective eyewear at no cost to employees.
4. Do not eat or apply cosmetics without washing your face.
Applying makeup or putting food in your mouth can transfer hazardous substances from your skin to your digestive system. Reduce the risk of exposure by washing your face before you engage in these activities. OSHA prohibits workers from consuming foods and beverages in areas where toxic materials are present. If your employer asks you to eat lunch at your work area, you have the right to file a complaint with OSHA or complain to management about this violation of 29 CFR 1910.141(g)(2).
5. Wash your hands regularly, even if you wear gloves for your entire shift.
Wearing gloves is a good way to protect yourself from chemical exposure, but it's not a substitute for washing your hands frequently. Make sure you wash your hands before and after using the bathroom, before eating, any time you switch from using one chemical to another, and before you leave the facility at the end of your shift. OSHA does not have hand-washing requirements for all occupations, but your employer should provide a sink with a foot pedal or electronic controls so you do not transfer chemical residue from your hands to the knobs or faucet of the sink.
6. Do not use any chemicals that are not labeled properly.
Do not use any chemicals that do not have labels to warn you of potential hazards. As of June 1, 2015, all chemical labels must have a pictogram to warn people about the risks of working with hazardous substances. One of the pictograms available indicates a chemical may cause damage to the kidneys or liver, making it especially important to look for labels if you are concerned about kidney damage. OSHA's hazard communication standard requires every label to contain the name and contact information of the chemical manufacturer, a summary of the hazards associated with working with the chemical, and a list of precautionary measures employees should take when using the chemical.
If you developed kidney damage because your employer failed to adhere to one of these standards, contact a personal injury attorney with experience handling cases involving job-related illnesses. With an attorney on your side, you have a better chance of holding your employer responsible for the costs associated with treating your kidney disorder.