Eight workers at a Job Centre in Harrow, Middlesex were awarded compensation after they were exposed to potentially lethal fumes in their workplace and suffered ill effects as a result.
The employees endured headaches and nausea for several months after a toxic chemical spill occurred outside their offices last year. Harrow Council had engaged contractors to seal the pavements with a material containing Xylene, a chemical which is highly potent and can cause death to anyone exposed at very high levels. At lower levels of enclosed, prolonged exposure, effects include confusion, loss of balance, nausea and headaches. When the members of staff learnt this, they sought advice from the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS).
They were advised to seek legal advice and then pursued a claim for compensation against Harrow Council and The Department for Work and Pensions who denied liability but agreed to settle out of court for an amount of £12,600, to be shared between the eight workers.
Employee complaints fell on deaf ears
Despite the workers making complaints to their employer concerning the strong fumes, the council failed to inform surrounding organisations of the chemical spill so that they could take steps to protect the health of their employees.
Carl Banks, health and safety officer for union PCS, said: “Our members spent weeks wondering what was wrong with them before finally finding out that they were suffering from the side effects of exposure to noxious chemicals.”
Apart from ill effects, exposure to fumes can result in other injuries. Sudden exposure can overwhelm victims and cause them to lose consciousness, and this in itself is often the cause of physical injuries.
Employers have a duty to ensure the health and safety of staff in the workplace and must take seriously any complaints or reports of issues that could have serious health consequences. If they don’t, as in the case of Harrow Council, they could face a claim for compensation.
Stephensons’ work injury claims lawyers have specialist expertise in pursuing all types of cases where workers have been injured or made ill due to the negligence of their employer. To discuss your case in complete confidence and to find out whether you have a valid claim, call us on 0844 245 6601.
By personal injury solicitor and Stephensons’ Partner, Kate Sweeney