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Toxic hazards in the health care workplace

Health care workers in Louisiana find themselves exposed to a wide variety of toxins and pathogens during the course of their daily labors. Although some of these dangers are well known and well understood, the challenges posed by toxic contamination in the workplace are less recognized.

The threat of viral or bacterial contamination in the health care workplace is real, and it is necessary that all surfaces be disinfected and instruments sterilized on a regular basis. Not only does this require substantial effort, but the chemicals and cleaning products used to kill microscopic lifeforms have the potential to do serious harm to the people who work with them.

By the same token, the storage and disposition of powerful pharmaceuticals carries the risk of toxic exposure. Anesthetic is beneficial to people who must undergo surgery, but it can seriously harm the unfortunate or careless employee who dispenses it. Chemotherapy drugs and x-rays are also simultaneously powerful tools for health care and serious risks for the employees who must be exposed to them every day.

The maintenance of a safe workplace is the responsibility of every employer. Those employees who have been injured on the job as a result of unsafe working conditions may be eligible to file a claim for workers' compensation benefits under their employer's insurance policy. These benefits can cover medical costs and can in some cases also include a portion of lost wages. If the injury was due to the employer's negligence, an injured worker may want to speak with an attorney to see whether filing a personal injury lawsuit against the employer in lieu of accepting workers' compensation benefits would be advisable.

Source: OH&S Online, "Health Care Hazmats: There's More On Site Than Just Bloodborne Pathogens", Karen Hamel, Dec. 1, 2015

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