When you think of worker’s compensation cases, you might imagine something like construction workers injured by falling equipment, or nurses hurting their backs lifting patients. However, causes such as toxins can also qualify you for worker’s comp. For example, if you are a photocopier technician, you work with machines and substances that give off potentially harmful gases.
In this vein, professionals who are especially at risk of harm from toxins include healthcare workers, hairdressers, mechanics, oil/gas workers and welders, but the reality is that toxins can find their way into traditional office systems, many of which have poor ventilation.
“Sick Building Syndrome”
Many office buildings are “sick.” That is, mold flourishes in dark places under carpets, and walls and office products such as glue and photo solutions add unhealthy compounds to the environment. Subpar ventilation traps irritants and allergens that workers breathe, and if a lot of construction is going on, there are even more chemicals and particles in the air.
Some common symptoms of mold exposure and illness include chronic cough, skin tingling, joint pain, headaches and fatigue. The symptoms can be similar to exposure to other toxins found in office environments. Often, they do not show up until you have been exposed for a prolonged period, and they may not appear in all workers. For example, differences such as allergies, age and body size affect how two workers sitting next to each other react to the presence of a toxin over many years. The effects on workers can be serious and even require hospitalization.
Working toward a solution
If you suspect mold exposure at work or exposure to other toxins has been making you sick, it is important to act. First, notify your employer, and if you have one, your union representative. Your employer should give you a list of approved physicians to see. It can also be a good idea to contact an attorney about compensation options.