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Ohio worker denied additional award for inhalation of metal dust

Readers of this blog are well aware of some of the dangers posed by their work environments. Heavy machinery can catch limbs or crush workers, employees can fall from heights, and construction workers may be at risk of getting hit by cars. But there is another danger lurking in many workplaces: contaminated air. In many factories, particles in the air can be harmful if inhaled. While many employers provide their employees with the proper safety equipment to protect them from these particles, sometimes they do not. Ohio workers should know what they can do when they are harmed in these situations.

A case decided over the summer by the Supreme Court of Ohio helps illustrate how many of these issues play out. There, an employee at a company that sharpened and put carbide teeth on saw blades developed respiratory problems after a year-and-a-half of exposure to cobalt and tungsten dust in the air. The worker was granted workers' compensation, but he also sought an additional award from the employer, likened to a penalty, that was dependent upon showing the employer failed to provide respiratory protection equipment to employees and that the employer failed to adopt methods to minimize the air contaminants.

After his claim was denied by the Industrial Commission of Ohio and the court of appeals, the Supreme Court of Ohio took up the case. But it, too, found the employee had failed to put forth evidence overcoming tests conducted by OSHA showing the plant had below the maximum level of contaminants necessary for requiring safety equipment.

Though this worker's additional claim was denied, it is significant he was able recover on his workers' compensation claim. These claims may allow one injured by a workplace accident to obtain medical benefits, loss of wages, and loss of future earning capacity. These awards can help a worker get back on his feet without worrying about how he is going to pay his medical expenses.

Yet, all too often these claims are denied. When that happens, the injured worker should consider seeking assistance from an Ohio workers' compensation attorney. The attorney can represent the worker in such matters and will do his best to obtain the maximum recovery possible. This may include attempting to gather sufficient evidence to overcome the opposing side's arguments and interviewing witnesses and specialists.

Source: The Circleville Herald, "Viewpoint: Workplace air quality," Paul E. Pfeifer, Nov. 20, 2013

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