Pennsylvania Workplace Safety Lawyers | Hazardous Chemicals at Work

Workplace Safety in Pennsylvania and New Jersey

Handling hazardous chemicals in the workplace can cause diseases, such as cancer. Sometimes it takes years for the illness to develop and become apparent.


“Too often, employers ignore OSHA and EPA safety and health guidelines; it takes a private lawsuit to get companies to change their practices.”
Alan Sklarsky


Hazardous chemicals can cause cancer. Those who work around potentially carcinogenic agents should be well informed, properly trained, and protected to the maximum degree possible. Employers, and the companies that manufacture the chemicals used in their workplaces, that fail to take precautions to safeguard their employees may be legally liable.

The following workplace chemicals are known carcinogens:

  • Benzene
  • Benzidene based dyes
  • Beryllium
  • Chromium-hexavalent
  • Coal Tar Pitch
  • Ethylene oxide
  • N-nitroso dimethylamine
  • Trichloroethylene
  • Vinyl Chloride

Williams Cedar has successfully represented hundreds of workers who have been exposed to hazardous chemicals and become ill as a result.

In addition to cancer, other serious diseases and their possible causes include:

  • Bronchiolitis/obliterans (popcorn workers’ lung)
    Food Flavoring, certain metals and other chemicals
  • Hormonal disruption and sexual dysfunctions
    Cadmium/ethylene oxide
  • Occupational asthma
    Industrial fluids and vapors, gasoline
  • Stillbirths/miscarriages
    Solvent exposure including xylene

back to top


Benzene can cause blood and bone marrow diseases. Its dangers have been known for decades. Those at-risk include refinery workers, factory employees who work with petroleum solvents, and those exposed to safety-kleen 105.

Benzene has been found to cause:

  • Aplastic Anemia
  • Leukemia
  • Myelodysplasia (Myelodysplastic Snydrome)
  • Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma
  • Polycythemia Vera

back to top


Vinyl chloride causes cancer. Forty years ago, before its health hazards were made public, workers in vinyl chloride and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) manufacturing plants were routinely exposed to very high levels (in the hundreds or thousands of parts per million) of this dangerous chemical. Today, anything over 1 ppm is considered unsafe. Prior to 1974, manufacturers concealed its health hazards, despite the fact that it was known even then to cause liver cancers.

To give some perspective: one pound of vinyl chloride can contaminate a five-acre area to a level of 2 ppm – this is double the OSHA eight-hour standard. In the 2012 Paulsboro, New Jersey train derailment accident over 100,000 pounds of vinyl chloride was released into the environment.

According to the EPA, the odor threshold for vinyl chloride is 3,000 ppm. That means if you can smell vinyl chloride, it is present in the air you are breathing at that alarming concentration!

If you or someone close to you worked in a vinyl chloride plant or were exposed to vinyl chloride in the environment, please contact the hazardous chemical lawyers at Williams Cedar if you suffer from or have been diagnosed with:

  • angiosarcoma of the liver
  • brain cancer
  • hepatobiliary cancer
  • hepatocellular carcinoma
  • liver cancer

back to top


Many industrial workers, especially machinists employed in the automotive and other metalworking industries, are regularly exposed to cutting oils, coolants, lubricants, solvents and other fluids. Some of these chemicals are petroleum-based; others are completely synthetic. They are used with a wide variety of industrial devices, including screw machines, drill presses, lathes, turning and spindle machines. They have ingredients and additives that have been shown to cause serious lung and skin disorders, including asthma and emphysema. Long-term exposure can also cause a variety of cancers, including those of the lung, testicles, esophagus, stomach, colon and rectum. They have been linked with Hodgkins disease, non-Hodgkins lymphoma, as well as leukemia.

The manufacturers of these fluids have long been aware of the dangers, but most have failed to take the steps necessary to remove carcinogens from their products – this is willful negligence. And it is against the law.

back to top


Trichloroethylene, commonly referred to as TCE, is a chemical solvent that was once widely used as a degreasing agent. As a result of improper use and disposal practices, TCE is now one of the most common and hazardous environmental contaminants. It is detected at more than 800 Superfund sites, as well as numerous other waste sites, including those of active and inactive industry and government facilities.

“There are often shortcuts taken in business and industry when profits are concerned. And these ‘end runs’ can – and sometimes do – seriously jeopardize worker health and safety.” 
-Alan Sklarsky

Found in soil, surface water, air and groundwater, TCE is particularly dangerous in the last of these, as it persists for decades or longer, and has the potential to contaminate drinking water wells, and to seep into homes as vapor.

A large number of people, in communities across the country, have been exposed to this harmful chemical. TCE is toxic to the liver, kidney, nervous system, immune system, reproductive system, endocrine system and blood, and has been shown to cause several forms of cancer, including liver, kidney and lymphoma. Small Children and fetuses (in utero) are particularly vulnerable to TCE’s toxic effects, and it has been linked to cardiac birth defects and pediatric leukemia.

Attorneys at Williams Cedar have been in the forefront of TCE litigation for over 20 years, representing homeowners, individuals and workers in a wide variety of exposure cases.

back to top


Construction workers and skilled tradesmen (such as electricians, millwrights, pipe fitters, iron workers, mechanics, masons, painters, carpenters, roofers, instrument mechanics and others) regularly face safety hazards, like falls, that could lead to serious injury.

“Laborers and people in the construction industries generally have limited control over the safety of the site. The work is fast-paced, and if you don’t jump in and do what’s asked of you, they’ll hire the next guy who comes along. Corners get cut, and accidents – sometimes serious ones – happen as a result.”
— Alan Sklarsky

Laborers rely on their employers to provide a clean, safe workplace. This includes properly maintained equipment like vehicles, ladders, hand tools, electrical and lifting devices. Outside contractors also trust they will be working within a safe environment. Yet, when a worker is injured or killed, management is often quick to blame employee carelessness or incompetence.

Williams Cedar champions the rights of the injured, going well beyond workers compensation to win fair and adequate remuneration for workers and their families. Often the litigation will involve third parties, including: construction managers, general and sub-contractors, inspectors, architects, consultants, equipment manufacturers and chemical suppliers – these and other parties all have a role and a responsibility in ensuring that a workplace is safe and secure.

“Workers have an expectation that they’ll be safe. That the government and/or their employers will look out for them. Well, the government has established standards, but they also have limited resources to investigate and study the huge numbers of chemicals and compounds that are potentially hazardous. In general, the law favors the employer. And often employees are reluctant to make waves or ask questions because they need the job.”
— Alan Sklarsky

Potential hazards may involve such conditions as:

  • open excavations, falling objects, welding operations, temporary wiring and overhead electrical lines
  • openings in floors, roofs, skylights or any opening into which a person could fall
  • operation of material handling equipment, power shovels, concrete mixers or supply trucks that are found to be unsafe or operated by inadequately trained personnel
  • failing to provide appropriate ladders and scaffolding or failing to properly train in the use of such equipment
  • failure to provide safe means for workers to gain access to the working platform
  • potential failure to test soil loads and hydrostatic pressure, identify underground utilities or install adequate barricades during excavation work
  • failure to provide site-specific fall protection including the use of full body harness, warning lines, guardrails, and safety nets
  • inadequately designed or installed bracing or structural shoring that will not support the intended load

Preventing injuries on the jobsite requires planning and coordination from the top down. In fact, accident prevention is legally required. Know your rights as a worker, and contact the workplace safety lawyers at Williams Cedar if you need help. For a free consultation call 215-557-0099 or 856-470-9777, representing injured workers in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and across the country.

back to top