Many California workers are exposed to dangerous levels of lead, often without their knowledge. A new law was recently enacted to provide protection. Elevated lead levels in a worker’s blood can cause irreversible heart disease and neurological damage. The risk of permanent damage increases when exposure is prolonged, and this is where the new law comes in — but how does workers’ compensation treat occupational illnesses caused by lead exposure?
According to the law, exposed workers will be monitored, and timely action will be taken whenever overexposure or high lead levels are reported. According to the California Department of Public Health, 2017 data revealed that over 6,000 workers statewide were found to have elevated levels of lead in their blood. Typical consequences include kidney disease, hypertension, cognitive dysfunction and more.
Based on the statute, laboratory reports that show blood lead levels exceeding 20 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood must be reported to the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health. The safety agency will then follow up by investigating the workplaces where the exposure took place. Employers who fail to prioritize the safety of their workers and continue to allow lead exposure will be cited, and they may face significant fines.
But what are the rights of employees who became ill as the result of prolonged lead exposure in their places of work? Although the California workers’ compensation insurance program covers occupational illnesses, proving diseases to be work-related could be challenging because they develop over time with no specific start date. Fortunately, help is available from a workers’ compensation attorney who has experience in fighting for the rights of ill or injured workers to receive financial assistance to cover medical expenses and lost wages.