The presence of chemicals, capable of causing personal injury, is more prevalent and across a wider range of workplaces than most people realise. From chemicals capable of causing varying degrees of occupational contact dermatitis and found in such commonplace goods as adhesives, cleaning materials and beauty and hairdressing products all the way through to chemicals that are capable of killing, serious personal injury or causing acute, long term health conditions with very little exposure and which are encountered mainly in the petro-chemical and other heavy industries.
These hazardous chemicals affect workers most commonly by the following means:
• Direct physical contact with the body, predominantly eyes and hands and usually the combined result of a chemical spillage due to incorrect storage, handling or use and the worker not wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) which would have provided an impermeable barrier, i.e. gloves or goggles.
• Inhalation of the vapours and gases of some chemicals, due to an accidental release of the vapour/gas or the lack of or inadequacy of a hazardous gas extraction system or as a normal part of the work process being undertaken by workers who haven’t been equipped with effective PPE.
• Affecting workers whose physiological constitution renders them more susceptible to the harmful effects than their co-workers who might not show any ill effects at all.
• Low level exposure over a long period of time, the harmful effects of which might not manifest for months or years after the commencement (and indeed ending) of that exposure, as in the case of fertilisers, sheep dip and weed-killers used, or previously used, in the farming industry.
Chemical injuries can thus be seen to be caused mainly by that ‘perfect storm’ of hazardous substance coming into contact with unprotected or/and untrained worker who might perhaps be working in an environment in which the control, containment or other engineering or process mechanisms for hazard elimination or reduction are not or only partially in place. This brings us on to the role of the employer.
If an employer due to his failure to discharge his duty of care to keep his employees safe and his lack of compliance with health and safety legislation is the reason or contributory reason that an employee suffers a chemical injury, then that employee could make a claim for chemical injury compensation. It’s as simple as that; bad employer + employee injured at work can = a valid claim for personal injury compensation.
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