Can workers take action against asbestos exposure?

As we have discussed in previous blog posts, the United States Environmental Protection Agency is aware of the harm asbestos causes. Yet, the EPA’s efforts to ban asbestos completely have been rejected by the courts on legal grounds. Some lawmakers continue to try and pass laws to ban the substance, but without any success.

For decades, workers faced the risk of exposure to asbestos. Many still do – and some are not keeping quiet.

Workers continue speaking out about risk

Several retired and current workers in industries across the country keep speaking out about the serious problem of asbestos. A recent article from National Public Radio (NPR) highlights one case of workers from OxyChem’s facility in Niagara Falls. These workers explained a near-nightmare workplace, where asbestos caked the walls and floor, and constantly floated in the air.

It is a bold step for these workers to tell their stories. Whether it is related to workplace safety issues – such as asbestos exposure – or even discrimination at work, workers face internal struggles about speaking out against their employers. Many might worry about their jobs, or they simply do not want to deal with more stress. Fears of employer retaliation are constant.

These worries and fears are understandable and reasonable. However, what should workers know about their rights?

Three things workers must know

No worker should have to face the risk of a workplace that puts their health in danger. If workers wish to take action about this risk, there are a few things they should consider:

  • Know your rights: The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) specifically states that employees have a right to a safe workplace and that employers, in turn, must prevent exposure to asbestos. Also, OSHA provides protection against retaliation for workers who blow the whistle and report unsafe working conditions.
  • You have inside knowledge: Workers know the ins and outs of their workplace and industry. While employers may report they are following workplace safety standards, workers have the experience – and often the evidence – that this is not necessarily true.
  • Legal guidance is available: Workers do not have to face these issues alone. Those facing health risks or mesothelioma diagnoses because of occupational asbestos exposure can seek justice with legal advocates on their sides.

Important note: Unlike the workers described in the NPR article, some workers simply are not willing to speak out. Others are just not comfortable speaking out. Regardless, if they faced exposure to asbestos on the job in Tennessee, and now a risk of mesothelioma, lung cancer, or asbestosis, they may be eligible for compensation.

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