Protect families from harmful workplace substances

In many industries, employees may carry harmful substances into their homes without realizing it. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has conducted studies and outlined methods to minimize the risk of exposing families to chemicals to reduce illness and injury. 

NIOSH worked with numerous government agencies to research contamination in workers’ homes. They studied exposure cases from 28 countries and 36 states, spanning across a wide range of industries, jobs, and substances. Their findings showed that hazardous substances brought home from the workplace caused several health problems in family members and roommates, such as respiratory issues, poisoning, and neurologic problems.

Common toxins brought home from work that can cause health issues may include: asbestos, lead, mercury, arsenic, pesticides, fibrous glass, and infectious agents from hospitals, labs, and farms. 


These hazardous substances can be brought home in a number of ways. They may reach the employee’s household by traveling on work clothing and contaminate other clothing when washed and dried in the same machines. Toxins on workers’ bodies, tools, and other items can expose employees’ homes or vehicles. Workplace visits from family members are another way hazardous materials are spread.

Below are some tips from NIOSH that can help workers prevent contamination in their homes and reduce illness and injury among family members:

• Learn as much as possible about workplace toxins
• Minimize one-the-job exposure by using appropriate safety practices
• Change clothes before leaving the workplace and leave dirty clothes behind
• Launder and store work clothes separately from non-work clothes
• If possible, shower at work before you head home
• Leave tools, scrap materials, and other items at work
• Do not allow family members to visit work areas where toxins are present

Protect workers and their families from contamination by providing education, showers, and personal protective equipment. Help confine hazardous substances to the workplace by providing protective clothing, work boots, and gloves – and requiring that these items stay at work.

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