Chemical exposure in the workplace is the main reason for many of these claims. An employer has a duty of care to ensure that they provide a safe and harm free work environment for their employees. They should carry out frequent assessments to make sure that there are no chemical hazards present. When working in this type of harmful environment an employer has a responsibility to provide adequate training and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to all members of staff. Employers should also ensure that they provide regular medical examinations to their staff who work in this type of environment also.
Chemical and toxic gas inhalation does not just happen at work but can also affect members of the public. In general, this is done through cleaning products if large amounts of chemicals are used to make up the product. In order to make a claim for this you must prove that a third party acted in a negligent manner which in turn led to your illness. It is important to note that most of these claims are made as personal injury claims through the Personal Injuries Assessment Board.
Symptoms can vary for each individual and in most cases depend on the particular chemical or gas that has been inhaled. When inhaled in small amounts, we are not majorly affected by them. It is when we come in contact with large quantities that serious damage occurs. Chemicals and gases can enter our system by both inhalation and skin contact.
Common symptoms include:
- Eye, mouth, throat, nose & lung irritation
- Damage to respiratory system
- Lung Damage
- Shortness of breath
- Damage to liver, brain and kidney cells leading to organ failure
- Impairment of senses
- Chest Pain
- Blood Poisoning
- Chemical Burns
- Headaches, Dizziness and Fainting
- Skin allergies and dermatitis
- Chronic asthma
- Skin or tissue damage leading to cancer
Gas leaks can occur as a result of poorly fitted or maintained equipment. These leaks can lead to various injuries and illnesses which all range in severity. It is important that all workplace equipment, machinery and appliances are regularly maintained and any issues should be repaired in a timely manner. Gas leaks have various side effects including headaches, nausea, irregular breathing and dizziness.
Spillages are more commonly associated with chemicals and are defined as the uncontrolled release of a hazardous chemical or substance. Chemical spills can lead to slip and fall accidents and can also leave employees exposed to these materials leading to the development of an illness. There should be procedures in place to deal with spillages and they should be cleaned up in a timely manner to avoid workplace accidents.
Faulty Equipment and Machinery
It is important that all machinery and equipment used in the workplace is maintained and kept in a good working condition. Faulty machinery can lead to accidents at work. If there are any defects or issues with equipment it can cause gas and chemicals to leak leading to overexposure. This is a common cause of chemical and gas inhalation. Any defective machinery or equipment should be disposed of and replaced as soon as possible to avoid injuries and illness.
Inadequate Training and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Where applicable, employers have a duty to provide PPE to their employees. This includes gloves, clothing, footwear and eye and ear protection. Failing to wear the correct equipment can lead to a number of injuries. In relation to working with chemicals and gas wearing inadequate PPE can lead to injuries such as dermatitis and can also cause overexposure to the harmful substances. It is important that where applicable, this equipment is worn at all times throughout the course of employment.
Absorption of Chemicals and Gas Through Skin Contact
Direct contact of the skin with harmful substances and chemicals can lead to injuries such as contact dermatitis and burns. This is commonly caused as a result of failing to wear protective equipment such as gloves. There should be procedures in place to prevent this injury from being sustained and harmful materials and substances should be controlled so that there is no skin contact.
What to do after an accident at work*?
Following an accident at work, there are a number of steps you should follow:
Seek medical attention
Your health is your wealth and should be your first priority. Immediately after an accident at work, take a second to assess yourself to determine if you have any injuries and seek the relevant medical attention. If you have sustained a serious injury ensure that you contact an ambulance to attend the scene.
For minor injuries, you must remember that minor injuries where you ‘feel fine’ could progress to more serious injuries in the future. In this case it is always better to be safe than sorry and advisable that you go to your nearest accident and emergency (A&E) or local GP to be checked out.
Report the accident
It is critical to report the accident to your superior, i.e. a supervisor or manager on site. It doesn’t matter how small you think the accident may be. By law, accidents at work are required to be reported if the person is injured and can’t perform their daily work tasks for more than three days. Make sure to fill out an Accident Report Form. This can be used for reference in any medical examination and will also prevent any similar accidents from happening in the future.
Identify any witnesses
If possible, try to collect the contact details of anybody that witnessed your accident. This may be of use if you do decide to pursue a workplace accident claim. It is also useful to find out if there is any CCTV in the area where your accident happened.
Document the incident
It is important that you collect all the relevant information in connection with your accident:
- How the accident happened
- Details of any witnesses
- If there are any CCTV recordings of your accident
- Take pictures of where the accident happened and what caused your accident
Speak to a workplace accident solicitor
If you are considering moving forward with a workplace accident claim for any personal injuries sustained, it is advisable that you speak with a workplace accident claims solicitor as soon as possible. If you are proceeding with a claim, the first step will be submitting your claim to the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB) for assessment. A workplace accident solicitor can help you in preparing your application to the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB) and ensure that you follow the process in the correct format, meaning that you can move forward with your claim quickly without unnecessary delays.
It is important to remember to keep copies of any expenses that you have incurred as a result of the accident. It is also imperative to retain copies of medical reports or incident report forms where possible as you will need them when making a claim.