Fires and explosions caused by flammable coatings and paints and illnesses caused by exposure to toxic chemical compounds are significant on-the-job dangers faced by shipyard workers in Pennsylvania and around the country according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The federal agency says that shipyard workers face particularly high risks because they are often called upon to apply potentially dangerous paints and other materials in poorly ventilated confined spaces.
An OSHA fact sheet reminds shipyard employers that they are responsible for identifying, evaluating and addressing respiratory hazards and ensuring that their workers are properly trained. In addition to providing workers with comprehensive safety training and appropriate protective equipment, the fact sheet urges employers to conduct regular atmospheric tests to help prevent combustible solvent vapors from reaching dangerous levels.
Other steps that shipyard employers can take to protect their workers include ensuring that fire extinguishers and other safety devices are working properly and checking to make sure that the tools and equipment used in confined spaces do not create sparks that could ignite clouds of volatile vapors. Grounding tools or bonding them to vessels electrically is especially important when paints or coatings with flash points below 80 degrees Fahrenheit are being used according to OSHA. Once painting work has been completed, ventilation efforts should continue and the area should be kept free of gas.
Workers who are injured in shipyard accidents often rely on workers’ compensation benefits cover their health care expenses and help make ends meet until they are able to return to work, but the application process can be difficult for those who are unfamiliar with the paperwork involved. Attorneys with experience in this area could help injured workers to avoid delays and denials by ensuring that all of their documentation is complete and supported by relevant medical and financial evidence.