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Oregon employers have a duty to protect workers from toxins

Even though there are constant efforts in Oregon to improve the quality of the environment generally and, in particular, within the workplace, the reality is that many workers in the Portland area still have to work with or around chemicals that are known to be toxic and hazardous to one's health.

While one might think of this as being a problem within the world of industry and manufacturing, a variety of professions may involve working with toxins. For example, in the world of medicine, doctors, nurses and others are frequently exposed to harmful chemicals and other health hazards. Truckers and others in the transportation industry may be expected to move such chemicals from one place to another.

In any event, employers have a duty to take reasonable safety measures in order to prevent their employees from being exposed, or overly exposed, to toxic chemicals and the like. Although this does not always mean that an employer has to avoid using toxins altogether, it does not mean taking the necessary environmental measures and providing safety equipment to workers so that workers can stay healthy.

For their part, employees also have steps they can take to protect themselves too, provided of course that their employer has provided adequate information to them.

Still, though, Oregon's workers' compensation system puts the burden of keeping workers safe and healthy squarely on the employers of this state. Because it is a no-fault system, an employee who has suffered the symptoms of toxic exposure need only prove that his or her symptoms are job related. Once he or she has done so, he or she may be eligible to receive benefits including reimbursement for medical bills and partial compensation for lost wages due to time away from work.

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