On the scale of things, for instance compared with the number of fatalities and major injuries caused by falling from height (the most common cause of work related death and injury), injuries sustained working with dangerous chemicals are not that common in the United Kingdom anymore, making up only 2% of all recorded workplace fatal injuries and 2.2% of all non-fatal injuries. In total, less than three thousand people were injured in the UK during 2011-12 due to accidents involving dangerous chemicals, with fewer than five hundred of the those being unfortunate enough to suffer injuries categorised by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) as ‘major’.
When the capacity of dangerous chemicals to ignite or burn through bodily tissues, locally or systemically poison or irradiate, blow people and objects to smithereens and cause cancer is considered it is seriously good news that such injuries are relatively rare. However, when you consider that the HSE defines major injuries as those such as fractures of major bones and loss of limbs it doesn’t take a huge leap of imagination to contemplate what the major injuries of those victims of accidents involving dangerous chemicals must be like, the most common type of which occur due to inhalation of a chemical, closely followed by accidental ingestion and other forms of skin (including eyes) contact.
Even the most hard-nosed business person endlessly reciting their mantra of ‘cost-cost-cost’ is likely to quail, and rightly so, when confronted by the victim of a serious accident involving dangerous chemicals which was caused by a misplaced prioritisation of profit over employee safety. In this day and age there is absolutely no reason why a worker should have to suffer an appalling chemical injury for that reason – or indeed any reason.
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