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Unsafe working environment: OSHA says death caused by wood dust

California workers at companies such as cabinet makers and other processors of wood may not realize the level of the risks they are facing. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified wood dust as a known carcinogen for humans. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration says such industries can implement common-sense, simple measures to avoid exposing their workers to an unsafe working environment.

After completing a recent investigation in another state, OSHA found that the death of a 55-year-old worker was caused by exposure to wood dust over the 15 years that he was a finish sander at a cabinet maker. Investigators found accumulated layers of wood dust that were up to 2 inches thick on ledges and elevated surfaces at the factory. The company was also cited for allowing respiratory hazards to exist along with multiple other safety violations related to electrical hazards and the absence of protective guards.

It has been determined that the wood dust of certain wood species, including beech, mahogany, oak, walnut, ash, elm and birch, can cause nasal cancer in workers who are exposed due to excessive inhalation. OSHA safety regulations include permissible exposure limits, but NIOSH promotes even lower levels of exposure. The media report states that the cabinet company is under new ownership, and the new owner is apparently improving the safety standards in the workplace.

One problem of exposure to carcinogens in an unsafe working environment is that cancer develops over time, and determining the onset of the occupational illness is difficult. California residents who have lost loved ones due to cancer or other workplace illnesses may want to utilize the services of experienced workers' compensation attorneys to guide them through the complexities of pursuing death benefit claims. Such compensation typically covers end-of-life expenses and a financial package to make up for lost wages.

Source: woodworkingnetwork.com, "OSHA: Cabinetmaker Died from Wood Dust Exposure", Karen M. Koenig, Aug. 4, 2015

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