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Improving air quality can protect Oklahoma lab workers

Laboratories around the country employ more than 550,000 people according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and these workers face a wide variety of airborne hazards ranging from toxic fumes to deadly pathogens. Exposure to these dangers can cause a variety of debilitating health problems and may even be life-threatening, but the perils of this type of work can be greatly reduced by sophisticated air monitoring and ventilation systems.

Monitoring the air in laboratories is crucial because even inert gases like nitrogen and argon can displace oxygen in sealed areas and asphyxiate workers. Other airborne dangers such as reactive, poisonous, flammable and biological substances pose more immediate threats to worker safety. Research facilities have traditionally relied on variable air volume boxes to manage air flow and regulate air pressure, but Venturi valves have become more common for highly specialized applications.

Venturi valves are more complex and expensive than VAV boxes, but they work more efficiently and require far less maintenance. They also provide greater control over air pressure, which can be vital in laboratories to prevent dangerous fumes, gases or biological agents from escaping. Engineering controls like more efficient and effective ventilation systems provide the best defense against airborne hazards according to OSHA because they are built-in safety features that protect all workers.

Laboratory workers who become sick or suffer injuries after being exposed to toxic substances in the workplace may file workers' compensation claims, but they could alternatively pursue compensation in civil court in certain situations. The law requires employers to take all reasonable steps to protect their workers, and this is particularly true when the tasks being performed are inherently dangerous. Attorneys with experience in this area may suggest that injured workers file lawsuits when their employers have disregarded workplace safety regulations and allowed conditions to become so dangerous that serious harm became inevitable.

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