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What Is Occupational Hazard Law, and When Do You Need an Attorney?

Certain jobs are dangerous by nature. Logging, oil rig and offshore/maritime work, roofing, steel work, trucking, and sanitation: these are the jobs that make and move the nation, and they can be as risky as they are essential. However, certain occupational hazards can and should be guarded against to stop preventable injury from happening. If you have been harmed due to a lack of safety equipment or protocols, you may need an occupational hazard attorney.
We at the Smith Law Center have decades of experience in helping those who’ve been wrongfully injured on the job. We have created this general information page on professional hazards, definitions of negligence, and how workplace injury is litigated.
Read on to learn more about occupational safety standards. If you need more specific advice, call us today at (757) 244-7000 to discuss your circumstances.

A construction worker in hard hat and boots freely climbs scaffolding without fall protection.

What Is Occupational Hazard Law? What Is Occupational Injury?

Occupational hazards are legally defined as the potential risks to life or functioning that are inherently associated with an individual’s occupation or work environment. Such professional hazards may lead to the contraction of a disease, the loss of functionality, or death from accident. While some dangers cannot be helped in certain workplace environments, many can be avoided or minimized.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is very clear: “Federal law entitles you to a safe workplace.” In instances of dangerous, dirty, or hazardous jobs, you still deserve safety protections under the law, and support for any damage caused by accident or negligence.

If you are not being protected (lack of safety gear or oversight), or if you have been injured or diagnosed with a work-related health condition, contact Smith Law Center to speak with an occupational hazard lawyer as soon as possible. We are here to help investigate what happened, who may be responsible, and how best to achieve financial support for you and your family.

Occupational hazards and the corresponding protections required

Occupational Dangers and Safety Standards

Here are common types of occupational hazards, and what safety standards should be in place to minimize or prevent injury to workers.

Hearing Damage

Working in loud industrial spaces, around aircraft, or even in a nightclub, can cause long-lasting or permanent hearing damage. Injuries may include tinnitus (an unstoppable ringing in the ear), hearing loss, or deafness.

Protections from auditory dangers could entail:

  • Upgrading to quieter machines
  • Isolating the noise source via sound barriers, buffers, or a dedicated room away from worker’s ears
  • Limiting worker exposure to loud areas (shifts and maximum times)
  • Using effective protective equipment like earplugs

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) states that loud noises can damage the cells of the inner ear (cochlea), causing the cells to die. The longer the exposure an unprotected ear has to loud noises, the more harmful the effects become.

Poisoning or Infection

Chemical or biological substances can lead to poisoning, overdose, or infections depending on the work environment. For those who work in chemical factories, exposure to harsh substances could cause skin, eye, or respiratory irritation or damage. Likewise anyone exposed to biohazards like blood, spit, saliva, semen, or human/mammalian waste could come into contact with communicable diseases. This includes medical staff, sanitation workers, prison employees, and/or animal caretakers.

Protections against these hazards may involve:

  • Limits and monitoring on the airborne concentrations of hazardous chemicals
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE) to avoid skin contact, inhalation, or ingestion of hazardous substances
  • Washing stations and swift protocols for those who are splashed, cut/pricked with, or otherwise exposed to harmful substances
  • Quarantining procedures for areas or items that have been contaminated

Even workplaces that don’t involve regular exposure to chemicals or biological materials should have protocols in place to respond to accidental spills or workplace injury/illness. Examples include up-to-date first aid kits, practiced evacuation procedures, and training or education on which common chemicals are toxic when mishandled.

Fall and Impact Injuries

Falling from a great height, falling into or onto something hazardous, or dropping an item that then falls on another person causing brain injury or spinal cord damage are examples of fall/impact injuries.

Protections against fall and impact injuries may include:

  • Protective equipment like helmets and steel-toed boots may help save lives, in instances of dropped tools that could strike workers on the ground
  • Railings, harnesses, and netting may be appropriate to protect those who work in high places from falling (OSHA requires fall protection at four feet in industrial settings, five feet in shipyards, six feet on construction sites, and eight feet in longshore workplaces)
  • Dangerous open machinery like threshers, industrial vats, or other forms of gaping/yawning equipment require fall protection regardless of the height above in which people are working

For those working on construction, oil rigs, powerlines, or as loggers or tree cutters, the risk of falling is real and ever-present. It only takes one slip, one missed step, or one unlucky moment to cause a lifetime of damage. Employers should provide safety measures to account for these risks.

If you’re strapped in with proper gear, you may be safe. Without such protections, or if your gear fails because it wasn’t well-maintained, you may need to contact an occupational hazard litigation attorney who can advocate on your behalf. Call Smith Law Center at (757) 244-7000 to find out about representation.

A powerline technician is belted safely as he works on an electrical connection high in the air.

Mechanical Injuries

For machinists and those working with cars, farm vehicles, oil rig apparatuses, and factory equipment, the danger that can occur when humans and machines cross paths can be horrifying.

Protections for those working with heavy machinery could look like:

  • Guardrails to protect employees from coming into any contact with moving parts whether they rotate (circular), reciprocate (up-and-down or back-and-forth), traverse (straight, continuous movement), cut, punch, shear, or bend
  • Devices that touch the point of operation so that employees only come into contact with the device (like a large wrench) instead of the dangerous part of the machine (the part that moves)
  • Covers for sharp or protruding items (circular saw covers, rebar caps)

Injuries to a person’s fingers, hands, toes, feet, and/or limbs can quickly change the quality of their life, let alone instances of hair or neckwear getting caught up in machines that are too big to stop.

Failsafes should keep such incidents from happening. However, if they are lacking in your workplace, or you’ve been injured regardless, contact the occupational hazard attorneys at Smith Law Center by calling (757) 244-7000 — we are ready to discuss your rights and recourse.

A female machinist works while wearing safety goggles and a helmet.

Psychosocial Hazards

For those who work in medicine, biohazards are only a part of the danger regularly dealt with. “Psychosocial” hazards include witnessing loss of life, and fellow human beings in crisis. Other jobs involve these damages too, like soldiers, law enforcement, and social workers.

In addition, jobs that involve customer harassment, long hours, night work, and/or social isolation take a real toll on human well-being. In fact, the American Psychological Association (APA) recognizes night work as uniquely harmful to a person’s health.

Protections against psychosocial harm may include:

  • Ample personal time off that can be used at the employee’s discretion
  • Professional psychological support either through work or provided via insurance coverage
  • Human Resources (HR) options that allow you to report and reconcile issues at work without risk of demotion, termination, or retaliation

There are instances of job sites and management styles that purposefully weaponize isolation, you-can’t-win-style mindgames, and irregular hours to keep employees from developing camaraderie and potentially unionizing.

If you feel that you’re being treated unfairly at work or potentially abused via bullying, intimidation, or harassment, consult with the attorneys at Smith Law Center to explain your situation and the harm it’s caused you. There may be a way to find help and justice via the law.

On paper, workers have the right to conditions that don’t pose serious risk of harm. If those rights are infringed upon, call Smith Law Center at (757) 244-7000.

What a Settlement or Damages Award Could Mean for You

On paper, workers have the right to conditions that don’t pose serious risk of harm. They also have the right to honest information in a language and vocabulary that they understand. However, sometimes, those rights are infringed upon, and it may require legal action to fix the situation, or to access support after an incident has occurred.

After exposure to occupational hazards, you may have serious medical, emotional, and financial needs that must be met in order to recover and move on.

Here is what a settlement or damage award could mean for an occupational injury:

  • Continuing medical care: If you’re injured while properly performing the duties of your job, you should be entitled to financial support for ongoing medical care. Hiring an attorney with experience in litigating workplace and job-related injuries is essential.
  • Lost wages, employment, advancement: Dangerous jobs often pay well because of the risk they involve. If you are injured while climbing, diving, or performing difficult tasks, your recovery needs may dictate that you never attempt that job again. This means losing out on potentially years of higher wages for skilled and daring work. Your lawyer will help calculate those losses on your behalf.
  • Pain and suffering: This includes the physical pain and stress that result from injuries, as well as psychological anguish and emotional pain. A lawyer may be able to show tangible proof of pain (ulcers from worry, for example), but even without visible proof of emotional distress, a practiced attorney may still make the case for such damages.
  • Punitive damages: If all proper precautions were taken, but an occupational accident occurred anyway, you still deserve support. However, if the proper safety measures were not met, a judge may decide punitive (aka “punishment”) damages are appropriate to file against the company/management, and then award those charges to you.
  • Wrongful death: For surviving family members of those lost to occupational injuries, wrongful death considerations may include the cost of funeral, burial, and estate fees. These may be obtained in addition to compensation for medical costs and lost wages. Wrongful death damages may also account for the human loss of companionship and emotional support, elements as real as they are difficult to quantify — an experienced attorney can help.

Unfortunately, workers compensation awards aren’t always as robust as they should be. If you have more bills than you have support, if you know or suspect there was negligence involved in your injury, or you have any questions that only a legal professional can answer, call us at Smith Law Center as soon as possible at (757) 244-7000. The sooner you act, the sooner we may be able to start investigating and advocating on your behalf.

Accidents on the job and work-related injuries are often the result of negligence or unsafe conditions. Contact Smith Law Center regarding your circumstances — we are ready to work hard on behalf of hard workers

Client Reviews and Testimonials for Smith Law Center

Hear from previous clients we’ve helped serve in their own words:

Andy H.

The attorneys and staff are great to work with. They care not only about a successful recovery, but ensuring their clients know what options are available for protecting the recovery long-term.

Anthony F.

I sustained a work-related injury and the Smith Law Firm has been there to counsel me through this very difficult time with compassion and confidence.

Sunshine M.

I was recommended to take my case to Smith Law Center. It can be very difficult nowadays to find qualities of loyalty, justice, integrity, and honesty, etc, but it happened for me at Smith Law Center. Thanks for all your hard work & great work ethics. You will be my go-to place if any other issue should arise. Thanks again.

Client Successes Won by Smith Law Center

Smith Law Center’s results for our clients are a great point of honor for us. Here are some of the settlements and verdicts for work-related injuries we were able to help our clients secure.

  • Truck driver: A trucking company paid out a $3,200,000 award to a truck driver injured during a work site wreck.
  • Shipboard worker: For a worker who suffered a traumatic brain injury due to a shipboard explosion caused by negligent contractor repairs, an award of $1,000,000 was granted.
  • Police officer: After suffering a back injury while on the job directing traffic, an officer was awarded $500,000 due to Smith Law Center’s advocacy.

Accidents on the job and work-related injuries are legally protected. Contact Smith Law Center at your earliest convenience for a free consultation regarding your circumstances — we are ready to work hard on behalf of hard workers.

Contact Smith Law Center for Occupational Hazard Help

Dangerous jobs do not mean you should expect to get hurt, in fact the opposite is true: the more dangerous the work, the more safety protocols and support you are owed.

If you or your loved one has been injured at work due to occupational exposure from chemicals, toxins, or blood-born pathogens, you deserve professional legal advice. If you have been impacted by a workplace accident caused by machinery, falls, or noise damage, an occupational hazard attorney can help you seek support resources. If your work environment is hostile, abusive, or inconducive to healthy productivity, ask an experienced occupational hazard attorney what your options are.

Call Smith Law Center today at (757) 244-7000, or fill out our online contact form to schedule a consultation at your earliest convenience. We are here to answer your questions and work hard on behalf of hard workers.

Occupational Hazards FAQ

What is occupational hazard law?

Occupational or professional hazard law is the area of law regarding the dangers connected to certain jobs, or the risks present due to the work environment. Outdoor jobs entail weather danger, for example, while healthcare and sanitation jobs regularly involve biohazard exposure.

What are common occupational hazards?

Though dangers vary for different workplaces, examples of the most harmful occupational hazards include:

  • Hearing damage from loud machines or music
  • Poisoning or infection from chemical or biological exposure
  • Fall or impact injuries from tools on construction sites, offshore rigs, or logging environments
  • Mechanical injuries from moving parts that rotate, reciprocate, traverse, cut, punch, shear, or bend
  • Psychosocial hazards that result from isolation, irregular hours, night work, bullying or harassment, and witnessing human trauma (as in medical, law enforcement, and social work)
What protections are workers entitled to?

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) states that “federal law entitles you to a safe workplace.” Additionally, workers also have the right to honest information about their jobs, and any potential dangers, in a language and vocabulary that they understand.

Is workers compensation enough for occupational hazard injury?

It is paramount that you speak with your own attorney when negotiating a workers compensation settlement. An experienced occupational hazard lawyer will help inform you of your rights, and fight for you if you’re being treated unfairly. Contact Smith Law Center at (757) 244-7000 for representation.

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If you or a relative had a severe reaction to military housing mold, it might be time to talk with a toxic mold lawyer. Mold is everywhere, and can be dangerous. Researchers have linked mold to serious respiratory illnesses in some individuals.

Smith Law Center may be able to help if a property owner failed to keep you safe from mold in your military housing. We are one of Virginia’s oldest and most successful firms. We know how to hold negligent property owners responsible, especially when the military is involved.

Call us at (757) 244-700 or contact us online to set up a free consultation. There’s no fee for learning more about Virginia mold laws, your rights, and your legal options.

Mold in Military Housing

Black mold in military housing became widely known when Reuters published an investigation in 2018. Since then, the Department of Defense and the housing providers were supposed to take steps to improve the situation.

Unfortunately, a 2020 audit by the DoD Office of Inspector General found many issues, including the need for mold remediation, still persist.

Monetary Awards in Military Housing Toxic Mold Cases

If the property owner lets toxic mold run wild and continue to cause you harm, talk with our toxic mold attorneys about filing a lawsuit.

You may receive financial compensation for:

Service members and their families do not receive different types of damages than civilians. These are civil lawsuits in traditional courts of law.

Military Housing Mold Toxicity Symptoms

The Institute of Medicine discovered there was evidence connecting exposure to indoor mold with:

  • Upper respiratory tract symptoms;
  • Coughing;
  • Wheezing;
  • Asthma symptoms in individuals with asthma; and
  • Hypersensitivity pneumonitis in individuals with weak immune systems.

There is also limited evidence that mold causes respiratory illnesses in healthy children or causes people to develop asthma.

Understanding Exposure to Toxic Mold in Military Housing

The topic of toxic mold is complicated. This Is in part because the term “toxic mold” isn’t accurate. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains mold isn’t toxic or poisonous. However, some molds are toxigenic, which means they produce toxins called mycotoxins.

Mold is common in military housing because it’ll grow anywhere there’s moisture. That includes on and inside walls, carpet, upholstery, wallpaper, and heating and air conditioning systems. This is especially pronounced in humid conditions such as those present in Virginia.

Some people have no difficulties around mold, even large infestations in their homes. Other individuals are sensitive to molds, including those that produce mycotoxins. Someone can have a severe reaction when exposed to a large amount of mold indoors.

People may be more likely to experience mold toxicity symptoms if they have:

  • Allergies,
  • An underlying lung disease,
  • Immune suppression,
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder,
  • Asthma, or
  • Another chronic respiratory disease.

Common Types of Military Housing Mold

When you’re trying to learn more from the CDC and other resources, you’ll see the word “fungus” a lot. Mold is a type of fungus, which is something that exists all around us. Fungi are living organisms different from animals, plants, and bacteria. There are over 200,000 types of fungi and over 100,000 types of molds.

If you discovered mold in your military housing, it could be Cladosporium, Penicillium, Stachybotrys chartarum, Aspergillus, or many other types. Stachybotrys is what everyone knows as black mold. Aspergillus is a common indoor fungus, which releases mycotoxins and can cause illness. Your symptoms may resemble common allergy or asthma symptoms.

Who is Liable for Military Housing Mold?

Since 1996, most military housing has come under the management of private companies:

  • Belfour Beatty Communities: Fort Eustis and Fort Story/li>
  • Lincoln Military Housing: Dahlgren, Little Creek, Naval Station Norfolk, Northwest Annex, Oceana, Portsmouth, Quantico, and Yorktown/li>
  • Hunt Military Communities: Fort Lee and Langley AFB

Outside of Virginia, Lendlease and Corvias Military Living are two more housing providers. Together, these five companies formed the Military Housing Association.

Military families living in on-base housing must take their complaints to their private management company — not the military. The company is responsible for providing habitable conditions and making repairs, including mold remediation.

If you’re unsure about your rights, review your state law and local ordinances about mold. In general, it’s the landlord’s responsibility to provide a habitable unit, which means it has to be safe to live in. A unit isn’t safe if it’s causing a tenant health issues due to mold.

The Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act requires landlords to disclose if there’s mold in the written report of the move-in inspection. If a tenant discovers visible mold in the unit, then the Act requires the landlord to remove the mold and relocate the tenant until it’s gone at no additional cost to the tenant.

Unfortunately, many families find their housing providers aren’t receptive to complaints. Attorney Stephen M. Smith has handled many mold lawsuits against military housing providers who fail to abide by their lease terms and the law when it comes to mold remediation and other hazards.

Other Hazards in Military Housing

Many service members and their families deal with uncomfortable, if not hazardous, conditions in privatized military housing, including:

Lead Paint: Lead-based paint can cause headaches, nausea, fatigue, irritability, behavioral problems, learning disabilities, seizures, organ damage, and in extreme cases, death.

Asbestos: Exposure to asbestos harms a person’s lungs, and can lead to lung fibrosis (scarring), lung cancer, and mesothelioma.

Radon: Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking. It naturally forms underground, however cracks and gaps in buildings lead to over-exposure indoors.

Poor Water Quality: Dozens of military sites have water with detectable levels of harmful chemicals.

Other issues involve rodent or insect infestations, pesticides, and faulty electrical wiring.

What Happens When a Lot of People Get Sick?

Sometimes mold exposure impacts a single individual or family. However, when the mold spreads throughout military housing, it can impact hundreds or thousands of people.

Occasionally, a large enough group of people are injured to allow for a class action or mass tort lawsuit. A class action lawsuit is one where a class representative acts as the plaintiff on behalf of the group of hurt individuals. Not every victim participates in the lawsuit. There are rules about when a group is big and similar enough to create a class action.

Mass tort lawsuits are different. When there are fewer plaintiffs who have their own set of circumstances, each person files a lawsuit. For efficiency’s sake, one or a couple of law firms may represent most plaintiffs, and the lawsuits are consolidated in a federal court.

Call the Military Housing Mold Lawyers at Smith Law Center for Help Right Away

Mold cases come about in a few ways. You or a loved one may start getting sick, and after weeks or months of struggling to find answers, you finally realize your military housing has a mold infestation. In other cases, you struggle with visible mold and then become ill.

Once you connect the illness with the mold, it’s time to talk with a toxic mold lawyer. Reaching out to an attorney early helps you build a strong compensation claim. We know how to collect evidence, identify who is liable, and craft a successful argument for a settlement or court award.

Attorney Stephen M. Smith has decades of experience handling injury claims and has been internationally recognized for his work. He has litigated cases involving catastrophic injuries and complex legal and scientific issues. In 2019, he was inducted into the Virginia Lawyers Hall of Fame.

You’re in good hands when you come to Smith Law Center for help. Reach out online or call (757) 244-7000 to schedule your 100% free consultation.

Military Housing Mold Lawsuits: FAQs

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Use the simple form below to send a message directly to our lawyers. We will respond within 1 hour or less during business hours.
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