Hazardous materials accidents risky for first responders

| Jul 15, 2015 | Workers' Compensation |

When a truck or train accident spills hazardous materials in Louisiana, the emergency and clean-up response must initially come from local police, fire and rescue personnel. These first responders may not immediately know the contents of the spill or what harm could arise from exposure to the substances both to them and to the public.

Companies that manufacture and transport hazardous materials currently do little to make information about the contents of in-transit materials readily available to personnel who need to respond to accidents. This lack of crucial information could be corrected through the use of existing tracking technologies. Digital records and tracking protocols used by law enforcement to collect and handle evidence could be applied to the movement of hazardous materials. By embedding the data in security devices that accompany shipping containers, trailers and train cars, first responders could integrate with the tracking data at the scene of the accident.

To speed the emergency response process, the tracking data could include access to accident procedures for the specific substance in the container. The U.S. Department of Transportation publishes a guidebook with emergency procedures for hazardous materials, but first responders rarely have this guidebook on hand. Easy digital linking to the appropriate information by scanning a container could allow personnel to quickly assess the dangers and protect safety as much as possible.

Even under ideal circumstances, first responders face a high risk of injuries on the job, particularly from toxic exposure. Many people who are hurt on the job have workers’ compensation to turn to for medical and wage benefits. Strict requirements, however, must be met for a claim to be accepted. An attorney may be of assistance in assembling the necessary documentation as well as in a subsequent appeal should the claim be disputed or denied.