You might think that chemical injury claims for compensation are generally made by workers in heavy industry and manufacturing who have been injured by dramatic accidents involving the spilling of corrosive or otherwise hazardous substances or the release of harmful fumes or by working with materials such as mercury, zinc or lead which are known to damage the internal organs. In fact claims extend to injuries which are sometime not immediately apparent to the sufferer, caused by constant exposure to chemicals in our everyday environment, such as the products we use and the buildings we work in, all of which we might presume to be non hazardous to our health. In 2007-08 the Health and Safety Executive produced statistics revealing that there were nearly three thousands chemical injuries in the service sector alone.
A chemical injury claim can generally be made if symptoms become apparent within three years of the claimant having worked with hazardous chemicals. It should be noted that although physiologically some people are more susceptible to the harmful effects of chemicals than others, everybody whose employment requires them to handle or process chemicals is entitled to be protected in their workplace from such harmful effects.
The effects of some chemical injuries will be immediately physically apparent as with the burns to body tissue associated with corrosive chemicals. Some injuries however will involve exposure to chemicals that are gradually absorbed by the body, and which over time might eventually spread to one or several internal organs. In such cases even the immediate removal of the injured worker from the presence of the chemical will not prevent the later development of serious injury. Symptoms of such chemical injuries by absorption can include stomach complaints, respiratory, cardiac problems and damage to the immune, endocrine and reproductive systems. If the chemical is fat soluble it will be capable of entering the brain and impairing neurological functions.
Employers have a duty of care to risk assess procedures, be aware of and act on the safety information and guidance supplied by the suppliers of chemicals (in line with the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSSH) regulations), follow industry best practice and remove or alleviate as far as possible the risks presented by a particular process or chemical. This they can do by ensuring that their employees who work with chemicals are correctly trained, have all the safety equipment they require and that they work in a suitable environment for the work being undertaken.
If an employee has suffered a chemical injury through no fault of their own and due to the employer being negligent in any aspect of his duty of care, which if he had correctly discharged it would have prevented the accident that caused the injury from occurring, it might be possible to make a chemical injury compensation claim. Make sure that you appoint experienced and accredited personal injury solicitors to help you with your compensation claim. They will be able to advise you on the whether you have grounds for a claim as although some injuries, such as burns and serious internal damage can be immediately apparent and their severity reasonably clearly ascribable to the toxicity of the chemical or length of time the worker was exposed to it, some chemical injuries are the result of long periods of low level exposure. The results of such exposures are injuries whose symptoms might have a very gradual onset and be diagnostically problematic. Such a situation can add a considerable extra degree of complexity to a claim, making the involvement of an experienced compensation claim solicitor all but essential.
Tim Bishop is senior partner of Bonallack and Bishop, specialist NHS negligence and accident compensation claim solicitors. For more advice on claiming compensation, click here or visit their specialist site at http://www.how-to-claim-compensation.co.uk or call them directly on 01722 422300.