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POISON [poi-zuh n]: According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, any substance that can be harmful if used incorrectly, by the wrong person or in the wrong amount.

Workplace mistakes can be deadly

What do Socrates, Alexander the Great, Charles Darwin, Cleopatra, Mozart and American blues musician Robert Johnson have in common? If history is correct, all of them died not of old age or illness, but of poisoning.

eye dropper iconWhat exactly is a poison? According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, it’s any substance that can be harmful if used incorrectly, by the wrong person or in the wrong amount. What’s more, poison can enter the body many ways, including orally or by injection, coming into contact with the skin or being breathed in.1 In 2015, America’s 55 poison centers received more than 2.8 million calls, and more than 2.2 million of those calls involved people coming into contact with dangerous or potentially dangerous substances.2

When we think of poisonings, we often think of children. After all, much is written about the dangers household cleaners and chemicals pose to infants and toddlers. But adults are susceptible to poisoning, too. Theoretically, they should be wiser than kids – after all, they can read labels – but mistakes happen. According to ABC News:3

  • beer iconA 29-year-old woman mistook liquid glue for eye drops. Her eyes were sealed shut for eight hours before doctors could open them.
  • 70 people became ill, some seriously, after drinking “apple juice” that was actually Tiki-lamp oil.
  • An infant died after an adult mixed baby formula with arsenic-laden weed killer that was mistaken for spring water.
  • A bar patron is on a permanent feeding tube after her drink was accidentally laced with lye instead of juice.

Poison prevention at the workplace

person wearing hard hat iconAs an employer, it’s your responsibility to help ensure your employees are safe from workplace toxins and hazards. What can you do to make your company’s work areas as safe as possible? Start by training employees to take these steps:4

  • Ventilate work areas where hazardous substances are used and stored.
  • Enclose hazardous operations to prevent dangerous vapors from escaping into the air employees breathe.
  • Restrict entry to hazardous areas to authorized, trained and properly equipped employees.
  • Read labels for information about chemical hazards before working with any substance.
  • chemical in a beaker iconFollow required work procedures when handling, using or storing chemicals.
  • Keep food, coffee mugs, soda cans and other personal items out work area where hazardous substances are used.
  • Wash immediately and carefully after handling toxic chemicals, and always before going home and before eating, drinking, smoking, using the toilet or applying cosmetics.
  • Store street clothes separately from work clothes and away from any possible poisonous substances.

Provide access to voluntary insurance

clip board iconWhile major medical insurance may cover many employee bills stemming from poisoning incidents, it’s wise to make sure workers have access to insurance that helps protect against the costs major medical plans may not cover. These include the household bills that continue to roll in during hospitalization and recovery, as well as copayments and deductibles.

One tool to consider is hospital confinement indemnity insurance, which helps pay out-of-pocket benefits associated with a covered hospital stay. Finally, make sure employees are prepared for the unexpected by prominently posting the number for the Poison Help line, 1-800-222-1222, in work areas. You should also encourage them to program it into their cell and home phones so they’ll have it on hand if it’s needed.

This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a solicitation.