Benzene Exposure Risks for Maritime, Dock, and Shipyard Employees
Benzene is one of the top chemicals used in the United States as a result of its versatility and low price. It’s easily extracted from crude oil, and in its pure form it’s a clear, highly flammable liquid that evaporates easily at room temperatures. It’s used as a major component of gasoline and as a building block of more complex industrial chemicals. It is also used to make artificial rubber, dyes, plastics, pesticides, drugs, nylon, resins, and detergents.
Benzene is also present in cigarette smoke, forest fires, and volcano fumes. Unfortunately, it is also toxic in concentrated forms.
Benzene evaporates into the air very quickly, but it barely dissolves in water. In fact, benzene will float on the water’s surface. This lack of dissipation means that those who work in, on, or around water are placed at even greater risk of benzene exposure.
Limiting Benzene Exposure for All Workers
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s benzene standard, there are three exposure level limits that employers must watch to keep their employees safe. These include the Action Level, PEL, and STEL.
- Action level. For an eight-hour exposure time, airborne concentration levels of benzene must remain under 0.5 ppm (one part of benzene per million parts of air). In other words, there cannot be more than a half cubic millimeter of benzene within a cubic meter of air.
- PEL (Permissible Exposure Limit). For a 40-hour work week (consisting of no more than eight-hour workdays) accumulated benzene levels must remain below one part per million. As a time-weighted average, an employee cannot be exposed to more than one-millimeter of benzene per meter of air over the course of an eight-hour shift.
- STEL (Short-Term Exposure Limit). For areas where the PEL cannot be maintained under 1 ppm, employers must take additional precautions. When the exposure limit is more than 5 ppm, employers must rotate shifts every 15 minutes, and employees must give breathing zone samples to check their exposure levels. These precautions will help to ensure that workers aren’t exposed to more than the standard PEL.
In addition, employers are also required to provide employees with protective gear when high levels of benzene are detected. This equipment should include respirators, organic vapor gas masks, or self-contained breathing apparatuses with a full face-piece. When your employer fails to maintain these safety standards, he opens himself up to legal liability for any benzene exposure injuries or illnesses.
Let Our Law Firm Help With Your Benzene Exposure Claim
If your employer has not done so already, everyone on your ship should be educated about the dangers of benzene and what you should do in the event you are exposed to it. What you do following an encounter with benzene can make a huge long-term difference in your health.
If you work in the maritime industry and believe that you may have been injured from benzene exposure, you need to contact a reputable maritime attorney immediately. He can help you take advantage of laws that protect maritime workers—the Jones Act and general maritime law—and allow for compensation for benzene exposure.
Contact our Houston office today to see how our years of experience can help guide you through pursuing a successful injury claim! The consultation is FREE, so you have nothing to lose, but a lot to gain. We’ll be waiting for your call.