According to some safety advocates, regulations from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration fall short of what is necessary to protect workers in Virginia. Since the creation of the agency, OSHA has created only about 30 guidelines for chemical exposures on top of the original 470 rules inherited from industry standards in the 1960s. The agency must overcome significant hurdles to establish even one chemical exposure limit. Studies that involve dozens of researchers and millions of dollars must take place to gather data proving a chemical is dangerous.
Critics call this the “body in the morgue” approach because the law views workplace chemicals as safe until proven otherwise. The complicated and costly process of developing new rules impedes workplace protections. In the past two decades, the agency has issued new regulations for just three chemicals. The current administration appears intent on further reducing the ability of regulatory agencies to determine safe-handling procedures for chemicals.
Conscientious employers recognize the inadequacy of existing chemical regulations and establish high standards at their workplaces to protect workers. Across all workplaces, however, knowledge of chemical safety could be insufficient or ignored, which exposes workers to risk. Chemical exposures could cause occupational diseases that take time to develop.
An employee afflicted with an occupational disease might encounter trouble when trying to file a workers’ compensation claim. Although workplace illnesses qualify for benefits, an employer or insurer might dispute the source of the sickness. Legal representation might enable a worker to overcome resistance. An attorney might connect the worker with an independent medical evaluation and present research that links chemical exposures with certain diseases.