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Employee responsibilities and airborne contaminants

As a construction employee, your employer has the responsibility to keep you safe from a number of potentially harmful substances and situations, including airborne contaminants. The methods for controlling exposure vary, but the underlying premise is the same for all employers — all employees have the right to a reasonably safe workplace. In some cases, it may not be possible to completely avoid all contact with airborne contaminants, but your rights to safety should not be subject to convenience. If you feel that your rights are being violated, an experienced attorney can help you determine if your employer is caring for his or her employees appropriately.

Keeping employees safe may be a matter of designing a workplace to appropriately contain any airborne contaminants so that employees can do necessary work without personally being harmed by the substances. However, in some cases, especially in construction sites, materials are often in more loose and difficult-to-contain forms. In such cases, an employer is required to supply appropriate safety gear for employees to wear, such as respirators that can mitigate the effects of airborne contaminants.

It is also possible in some cases that the only reasonable way to deal with the risks of exposure is to limit the amount of time a given employee is exposed to the substance. In such a scenario, the employee would institute time limits on how long an employee can work in a specific area, with or without protective gear, in a given day or week.

Of course, each case requires its own evaluation. Unfortunately, employers often overlook worker safety if the danger is not visible or immediate. If you believe that you have suffered dangerous circumstances at work, a qualified, experienced attorney can help you protect your health and your rights.

Source: State of California, Department of Industrial Relations, "Cal/OSHA Pocket Guide for the Construction Industry," accessed March 10, 2017

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