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The danger of chemicals in the workplace

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It was reported on the BBC website earlier this month that emergency services were called to an Essex school to deal with a chemical spill caused by unintentionally mixing two substances. Three people were treated for chlorine inhalation but thankfully none of the 800 pupils at the school were harmed, although a decontamination officer was called in to deal with the issue and the Environment Agency had to be informed.

This is just one example of how dangerous chemicals can be. Anyone, from teachers to manual workers, drivers, cleaning professionals and retail or office staff can come into contact with potent substances during the course of the working day. Even substances that aren’t obviously harmful, such as paint or household cleaners, could cause a reaction under certain circumstances.

In the case of the Essex school, a reaction was caused by mixing two substances, and this is just one way in which chemicals can prove hazardous. Spillages, misuse due to lack of training or supervision, insufficient safety clothing, faulty equipment or failure by manufacturers to provide clear instructions and warnings could all result in injury to the user, or those in the vicinity.

The control of substances harmful to health – COSHH

Burns, the inhalation of toxic fumes, allergic reactions, splashes to the eyes and even long term illnesses can all be caused by chemicals, which is why there are very stringent laws governing their use.

COSHH – the Control of Substances Harmful to Health – is a law that dictates to employers how they must prevent or control the exposure of their workers to hazardous substances.

Construction firm prosecuted

Construction industry firm Laing O’Rourke Utilities Ltd was recently prosecuted by the Health & Safety Executive under COSHH after one of its workers suffered injury and illness due to exposure to isocynate in 2007. Isocynate is the second greatest cause of work related asthma and is also known to cause skin irritations such as dermatitis, as well as conjunctivitis and bronchitis. The worker was exposed to the chemical-containing paint he was using due to the failure of his employer to provide adequate protective equipment.

Worker burned in chemical spill at factory

Earlier this month, a faulty tank valve caused a major chemical spill at a factory in Coventry. One of the workers suffered minor burns and an evacuation ensued due to the danger of escaping fumes.

Claiming Compensation for Chemical related injuries

From skin reactions to burns or respiratory disorders, Stephensons’ specialist personal injury lawyers have the expertise and experience necessary to pursue a claim for compensation and to achieve the maximum financial reward possible. Call us today on 01616 966 229 to discuss your chemical injury claim.

By personal injury solicitor, Kate Sweeney