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Many workers exposed to toxic fumes denied workers' compensation

Millions of workers strive to perform their duties with care and attention to detail.  It may also bring a measure of comfort to North Carolina workers to know that they will most likely be covered by workers' compensation if they become incapacitated by a work-related injury. Unfortunately, not every worker in the country is ensured of qualifying for these vital benefits.

Workers in one state are fighting to have their work-related illnesses qualify for compensation. They are employed by a nuclear waste storage facility. Now, the Attorney General in that state has threatened to file a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Energy over allegations that dozens of workers have been denied coverage for their work-related illnesses.

For years, workers at the plant have suffered from exposure to toxic vapors in the normal course of performing their duties. However, the company does not have workers' compensation coverage through the state's Department of Labor and Industries; rather, it is covered by a system under the U.S. Department of Energy. In spite of the well-documented dangers posed by many of the 2,000 chemical elements contained in the noxious fumes, practically every claim for benefits filed in 2014 has been denied by the occupational doctors working for the company contracted to handle claims.

The Attorney General for Washington has expressed his disgust over the lack of worker safety protocols at the Hanford storage facility, along with the denial of legitimate workers' compensation claims. Many workers have suffered numerous breathing difficulties as well as irritation to their vocal cords and lungs after exposure to the toxic vapors. There has been no report detailing the federal agency's response to the proposed litigation. North Carolina workers, however, are entitled to seek assistance in filing timely a claim for benefits whenever one has suffered a work-related illness or injury.

Source:, "Sick Hanford workers told 'you're fine'", Susannah Frame, Nov. 20, 2014

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