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Workplace injuries: Lead can harm workers and their families

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration mandates that employers nationwide, including Oklahoma, must inform workers of all the hazards they might encounter on the job. They must also provide safety training to teach them how to mitigate the risks to which they are exposed and avoid workplace injuries or illnesses. Workers in many occupations risk not only their own health but also the safety of their families. This happens when they take dangerous lead particles home on their work clothes.

Jobs in which lead exposure is possible include demolition, building renovation, painting, ceramic work, radiator repair and soldering. Also, workers involved in metal production, cutting and recycling of metal, shooting range work, bridgework, and battery manufacturing can be at risk. Workers in these jobs must always wash or shower and change clothes and shoes before they go home. Lead-contaminated clothes must be washed separately.

Lead can cause long-term or permanent health damage. It damages the kidneys, blood, brain and nervous system. Low lead levels in the blood of children younger than six years may go undetected, causing behavioral and learning problems. Pregnant women, children and others who share homes with lead workers must have their blood tested for lead.

Workers in Oklahoma who become ill and are unable to work for an extended period might be eligible for workers' compensation benefits to cover medical expenses and lost wages. Proving the condition to be work-related could be challenging because, unlike other workplace injuries, lead poisoning is a progressive illness with no particular date on which it happened. Fortunately, affected workers can utilize the skills of an experienced workers' compensation attorney to navigate the benefits claims process while they focus on recovering and getting back to work.

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