When employees are at work, they want to focus on doing their jobs. The last thing they want to think about is the air quality at work. Unfortunately, air quality at work can be a genuine concern for many workers throughout Nevada and the United States.
You may wonder if your employer has any responsibility for the air quality at work. Here’s what you need to know about air quality and employer liability from our skilled workers’ compensation lawyers.
Are Employers Responsible for Air Quality?
Yes, employers are responsible for air quality. An employer must comply with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards when it comes to air quality. OSHA standards require an employer to provide a workplace free of dangers that are likely to cause death.
In addition, there are specific guidelines for permissible levels of air quality. Employees who have adverse health problems because of air quality may receive workers’ compensation.
Can I Sue My Employer for Second-Hand Smoke?
In most cases, no, you can’t sue your employer for second-hand smoke. However, you can bring a claim for workers’ compensation. Your claim can include compensation for loss of use if you have cancer or respiratory issues because of second-hand smoke.
Even though workers’ compensation is probably your best and only avenue for recovery, there may be exceptions. If your employer knowingly violates OSHA standards or knowingly requires you to work in dangerous conditions, you may qualify to bring a traditional legal claim.
Second-Hand Smoke in the Workplace
Second-hand smoke in the workplace is a serious concern. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has created standards for acceptable levels of smoke byproducts in the air at a workplace.
If you’re exposed to second-hand smoke in the workplace, you may face long-term consequences, including respiratory illnesses and cancer. You may report your concerns to your employer as well as to OSHA. If you’re hurt because of second-hand smoke in the workplace, you may file for workers’ compensation.
Air Quality at Work Regulations
Air quality at work regulations may come from federal, state, and local laws. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has created standards for allowable air quality levels. The maximum amount of a substance that can be in the air is called a permissible exposure limit. When an employer exceeds the permissible exposure limit, OSHA may step in to enforce federal law.
OSHA requires the employer to first eliminate or reduce the toxins in the air by using administrative or engineering controls. If those measures don’t do enough to bring air pollutants down to acceptable levels, the employer must offer protective equipment, including respirators. OSHA standards create rules for both long-term exposure and short-term exposure to contaminants in the air while at work.
Types of Air Quality in the Workplace
There are multiple kinds of ways that air quality can be a danger at work. Here are some of the types of air quality that can be problematic for an employee:
- Poor ventilation; not enough fresh air
- A contaminated or soiled ventilation system
- A broken ventilation system
- Moisture, high humidity
- Construction/remodeling fumes
- Fumes from dangerous chemicals and toxic gases
- Indoor/outdoor contaminated air
- Second-hand smoke
Employer Duties for Air Quality
OSHA requires employees to maintain a safe workplace. They may not require employees to work in an environment that’s likely to cause serious injury or death. The rule that employers may not recklessly expose their workers to serious injury or death applies to all facets of the work employment. Air quality is only one example of a work environment that may be dangerous.
In addition to following OSHA standards for preventing serious injury and death, employers have to meet air quality limits for certain types of pollutants. There may be additional state standards that apply. Employers may also be subject to workers’ compensation claims and in extreme cases, civil lawsuits because of poor air quality.
Second-Hand Smoke in Las Vegas Casinos
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) studied the risks of second-hand smoke for casino employees in Las Vegas. To test worker exposure to smoke from casino patrons, NIOSH collected urine samples from non-smoking workers. They found that workers had increasing carcinogens in their system during an eight-hour shift at the casino. NIOSH recommends that employees should not be involuntarily exposed to second-hand smoke.
The Nevada Clean Indoor Air Act
The Nevada Clean Indoor Air Act is a law that bans smoking in most public places. Generally, the law prohibits smoking in most places of employment. But there are some important exceptions. Smoking is still allowed in casinos in areas where minors are excluded. It’s also allowed in restaurants in closed-off smoking areas. The rule is that smoking is prohibited in a place of employment unless it’s a listed exception. The listed exceptions are generally entertainment venues including casinos.
What Do You Do If Air Quality Is Unhealthy at Work?
If air quality is unhealthy at work, you should take the following steps:
- Talk to your employer about your concerns
- Ask your employer to test the air at your workplace
- Report your concerns to OSHA and ask for an investigation
- Seek medical care if you have signs and symptoms of illness
Working in an environment with smokers is legal in some circumstances in Nevada. Although an employer may offer you employment that exposes you to pollutants, they may still owe you compensation if you suffer adverse health events because of any issue in your work environment.
Workers’ Compensation for Exposure to Pollutants
You may bring your claim for workers’ compensation without having to prove that your employer acted negligently in allowing pollutants in the air. You may claim workers’ compensation regardless of whether the employer met air quality levels and whether or not they provided you with protective equipment. Any illness or injury that can be tied to the working environment may be grounds for workers’ compensation.
Workers’ Compensation Attorneys
Our workers’ compensation lawyers can help you if you’ve been injured because of pollutants at work. We can help you process your claim efficiently and work to get the maximum amount of compensation that you may deserve. Contact our lawyers for respiratory issues at work for a confidential consultation about your claim.
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