Workers in numerous industries face countless hazards during nearly every shift. Whether it is a single-accident injury such as falling down a set of steps or muscle strain due to months of performing the same task over and over, workers could struggle with lifelong injuries. Unfortunately, toxic exposure often represents a more insidious type of injury.
- Inhalation: Numerous chemicals can release fumes or vapors whether in storage or when combined with other materials. Additionally, certain materials deteriorate either casting off small fibers or dust that workers can breathe directly into the lungs.
- Ingestion: Like inhalation, workers can unintentionally swallow dangerous materials. These materials can splash to the face and mouth, or the worker transfers them from the hands to the mouth.
- Dermal absorption: When a worker makes direct skin contact with the toxic material, it can lead to numerous conditions. From general skin irritation to tissue death, dermal absorption can lead to severe conditions.
Unfortunately, factory workers often discount the severity of skin contact when it comes to toxic materials. They often feel protected by their clothing or are convinced that a quick wash will eliminate any danger. Unfortunately, this is not often the case. Far too often, the chemical is dangerous enough to warrant special treatment from a trained medical professional.
Occupational skin diseases can include severe allergic reactions, skin infections and skin cancer. The rate of dermal absorption depends on numerous factors, including:
- Whether there are any lacerations in the area of the contact
- Where on the body the chemical makes contact as features such as skin thickness vary across the body
- The strength of the concentration of the material as well as the chemical composition
- How long the contact lasted
Workers must take any type of chemical exposure seriously. No matter the occupation and the type of chemical, workers must clean the area thoroughly, change clothes and research the item in the Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) to learn of any risk factors. Additionally, the worker must alert the employer and seek a professional medical opinion regarding potential injuries.