People throughout Illinois work in academic, research and commercial laboratories. These work environments encompass many types of hazards, such as exposure to hazardous biological or chemical substances and radiation. Physical hazards are present in instrument rooms, chemical storage rooms, loading docks and waste processing areas. Musculoskeletal injuries can be a concern as well. Due to numerous dangers, laboratory workplaces must have extensive safety plans. Guidance from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration directs employers to appoint a qualified chemical hygiene officer to write a chemical hygiene plan.

Development of a plan begins with the identification of workplace hazards. The plan then describes the best practices and protocols that workers should follow and the personal protective equipment that they should wear. The safety officer should give special attention to highly toxic materials, carcinogens and chemicals that affect reproduction. Employers have an additional duty to continuously monitor workers’ exposures to hazardous substances and provide medical evaluations if symptoms of exposure arise among workers.

As with all things related to safety, employee training is an essential element. All workers should receive instruction in safety protocols related to a position prior to performing the duties.

Workplace safety presents employers and employees with complex challenges, and accidents can occur. Workers’ compensation insurance is in place for this reason and is meant to pay for an employee’s medical care after a workplace accident or injury. Despite the presence of benefits, a person might have trouble making a claim. Contract labor arrangements can make determining liability murky, or an employer may dispute the source of a worker’s injury. An attorney may assert a person’s right to an unbiased medical evaluation and prepare an insurance claim. In a highly contentious or high-value case, an attorney might recommend taking an insurer to court to pursue a fair settlement.