Injured Workers: Car and Truck Washers Exposed to Chemical Burns

California workers in different industries are exposed to hazardous chemicals on a daily basis. The Department of Labor & Industries recently published results of research that was done by its SHARP Program. The study showed that hydrofluoric acid — a chemical typically used for commercial washing of vehicles — can adversely affect workers who come in contact with it. Records of the Occupational Health and Safety Administration show that some injured workers required hospitalization.

Hydrofluoric acid is used in low concentrations, and, for this reason, business owners and employees may not recognize its toxicity. It was reported that workers may experience minimal or no discomfort initially, but the pain typically develops over time. This often prevents timely medical care. Workers’ compensation data for the period 2001 through 2013 shows reports of 48 hydrofluoric acid chemical burns. The severity of the burn injuries depends on the strength of the hydrofluoric acid solution, but reported incidents ranged from first- to third-degree burns.

This dangerous chemical is typically used in car and truck washes to remove roadway grime and brighten aluminum. Of the reported cases, approximately 50 percent were car and truck wash employees. However, this is not the only industry in which workers are exposed. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reportedly identified 16 different industries in which workers typically face the hazards of hydrofluoric acid.

Injured workers in California who are suffering the consequences of exposure to hazardous chemicals are entitled to pursue workers’ compensation benefits to assist with settling medical bills. Employees whose injuries cause absence from work may be concerned about lost wages. However, the insurance system should also cover a percentage of the injured worker’s lost income.

Source:, “New Research Shows Car Wash Chemical May Cause Serious Burns to Workers“, Aug. 24, 2015

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