There are many industries that use hazardous substances and materials and this includes farms, beauty salons, laboratories and factories to name but four. Toxic substances can also be found in other working environments like shops, hairdressers and offices which exposes employees, other workers and people to them. If you suffer chemical poisoning in the workplace and you can provide evidence that it was through employer negligence, you could be entitled to seek compensation from them, to find out more please read on.
An Employer’s Duty Towards All Employees and Workers
Your boss has a legal duty to ensure that you are kept safe from harm and injury while you are in their employment. Should they fail to do so and you develop some kind of health issue or suffer any type of injury at work, an employer could be deemed liable and they would have to pay compensation for the pain, suffering as well as any out of pocket you incur. This includes when you suffer chemical poisoning at work providing it can be proved that your employer was negligent.
The laws in the United Kingdom that cover working and handling hazardous material and substances are very strict. These are as follows:
- The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations’ (COSHH)
- The Health and Safety at Work Act
Failure to abide by the legislation and laws relating to hazardous material and substances which results in you suffering chemical poisoning could result in an employer being held liable and you could be entitled to receive compensation from them for the pain and suffering you endured through no fault of your own.
An employer must set in place the following measures:
- Your exposure to hazardous material and substances is kept to a minimum
- That risk assessments of your working environment are regularly carried out and all reasonable measures are set in place to keep you safe
- To provide the correct and adequate personal protective equipment when handling hazardous and toxic substances and material
- To provide adequate and ongoing training when handling and working with toxic and other hazardous materials and substances
What Hazardous Material Can Cause Chemical Poisoning in the Workplace?
There are various materials and substances that can lead to you suffering chemical poisoning in the workplace and this includes the following:
- Fumes, vapours, mists and dusts
- Biological agents – viruses and bacteria
- Products that contain chemicals and other toxic substances an example being bleach
What Are the Effects of Chemical Poisoning?
The effects that can be experienced associated with chemical poisoning would depend on the toxic substance you come into contact with and the length of time you were exposed to it. However, many of the common conditions that you could develop include the following:
- Occupational dermatitis
- Damage to internal organs
- Respiratory issues
- Legionnaires or leptospirosis
If you develop a health condition as a result of chemical poisoning in the workplace, providing you have enough evidence that your employer was negligent in their duty to keep you safe from harm while in their employment, you could seek compensation for the pain and suffering you had to endure through no fault of your own.
What is the Definition of a Hazardous Material Accident at Work?
Any accident at work that involves hazards material and/or substances must be reported to the Health and Safety Executive (RIDDOR). If you were involved in an incident where hazardous material was present and you suffer chemical poisoning, you could be entitled to file for industrial disease compensation from your employer. One of the more common incidents occur when you ingest, inhale or absorb toxic chemicals through the skin which could be any of the following hazardous substances:-
- Diesel and hydrocarbons
- Carbon monoxide
- Chlorine – found in swimming pools as well as other areas
- Dioxin – which is highly toxic
- Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB’s)
How Do I Start a Chemical Poisoning Claim Against an Employer?
If you were involved in a workplace accident where a hazardous material was present and as a consequence you developed chemical poisoning, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible before contacting a lawyer who specialises in this type of workplace personal injury claim. The firm of solicitors you contact would assess your claim against an employer and would request that you provide as much evidence as possible to support your case. This would include the following:
- CCTV footage of where the workplace accident occurred if available
- Photos of where the accident happened
- The official report of the incident as recorded in the accident report book and RIDDOR
- Witness statements together with their contact information
- An official medical report of your condition
Contacting a firm of solicitors that specialise in hazardous and toxic substances claims as early as possible avoids any mistakes in filing a chemical poisoning claim being made and ensures that all pre-action protocols are respected. The first thing a firm of solicitors would do is assess your claim which they would do by offering a free, initial consultation. This first consultation can be carried out over the telephone or if your case is very complex, in a face-to-face meeting, either way there would not be a charge for the legal advice the solicitor provides.
The solicitor would also be able to organise for you be examined by an independent medical professional who would provide a more detailed report on the extent of the damage you sustained when involved in workplace accident where hazardous materials were present. This medical report is crucial as it would be used to calculate the amount of chemical poisoning compensation you may receive.
Because chemical poisoning claims are more complex legal processes, it can take longer for a settlement to be agreed, in which case, the solicitor you choose to work with, would ensure that you receive interim payments until a final settlement is reached whether your case goes to court or your employer’s insurance providers offers to settle the case “out of court”. If it is the latter, a solicitor would enter into negotiations with the insurance company to ensure the chemical poisoning compensation is a fair and acceptable amount.
What Level of Compensation Could I Receive For Chemical Poisoning?
All workplace accidents that result in employees and other people being injured are different because the circumstances leading up to the incident and the injuries sustained are never exactly the same. As such, the amount of chemical poisoning compensation you may receive could differ from the money awarded to someone else who suffered a similar workplace accident and sustained similar injuries.
A solicitor who specialises in this type of complex work-related personal injury claim would work hard to ensure that you receive a fair level of chemical poisoning compensation. It is noteworthy that the majority (95%) of all personal injury claims tend to be settled by an employer’s liability insurance provider and that most cases only have to go before a judge when an employer disputes a claim.
What Can I Include in a Chemical Poisoning at Work Claim?
There are specific things that can be included in all personal injury claims which are divided into two parts. These are as detailed below:
- General damages are awarded as a way of compensating you for the injuries you sustained through no fault of your own in the workplace. In short, general damages are calculated on the pain and suffering you had to go through because of chemical poisoning
- Special damages are awarded to compensate you for all the money you had to pay out as a result of having suffered chemical poisoning in the workplace. This includes all your medical expenses, the cost of having to travel to hospital or other medical facilities to receive necessary treatments and therapies, whether you travelled by car, taxi, train, bus or by any other means. As such, you must be able to provide the receipts of all the expenses you incurred because these would be needed in order to calculate the special damages you could receive
Should I Sue My Employer If I Suffer Chemical Poisoning at Work?
As previously mentioned, your employer must ensure that you are kept safe from injury and harm. It is a legal requirement for them to set in place all “reasonable” measures to reduce the risk of a workplace accident occurring. Your employer is also obliged by law to hold liability insurance and the provider must be a recognised insurance company. The policy must also meet the legally required cover which is £5 million.
If you suffer chemical poisoning in a workplace accident through employer negligence or because of an error on the part of a work colleague and the incident occurred in the last 3 years, you have the right under the law to seek compensation for your pain and suffering. It could be that your injuries prevent you from working in the future or you may not be able to work for a period of time. This would mean that you would not be able to bring in a much needed salary which in turn puts you and your loved ones under financial pressure when things are already hard to cope with.
Seeking chemical poisoning compensation from a negligent employer would alleviate all the financial worries of not being able to bring home a wage and would ensure that you could afford any specialist treatments and therapies that you may need both in the short and long-term. It is also worth noting that if your employer does not dispute your claim, there is a very high chance that your case would be settled “out of court” with the insurance provider offering a final settlement. This would be negotiated by the firm of solicitors you choose to represent you in a chemical poisoning claim who would work hard to ensure the amount is acceptable.
What are My Rights Following an Accident at Work Involving Hazardous Materials?
Worker’s rights are protected in the United Kingdom and this is especially true if you are involved in a workplace accident that leaves you injured or harmed in any way. As such, if you suffer chemical poisoning at work, your worker’s rights are as follows:
- To be awarded the level of compensation you deserve by filing a personal injury claim against a negligent employer
- To know that you cannot be fired because you seek chemical poisoning compensation from your employer
When informing your employer of your intentions, they treat you detrimentally or unfairly which could include threatening you with redundancy or the sack, you should discuss your concerns with a solicitor who specialises in employment law before doing anything else which includes resigning from your job. The reason being that your employer could be acting illegally towards you and as such you may be entitled to file further legal action out against them.
What Are My Employer’s Responsibilities Towards Me in the Workplace?
Employers must ensure that they set in place all “reasonable” measures to reduce the risk of accidents occurring in the workplace. If your job entails handling and working with hazardous or toxic materials and substances, your employer must abide by the law as detailed above. Other responsibilities that an employer must respect when it comes to keeping you safe while you are at work, include the following:
- That you are provided with the correct level of training to do a job and that you receive ongoing training at regular intervals
- To ensure that you are made aware of all the working practices and procedures
- That all the tools, equipment and machinery that is used in the workplace is in good working order and correctly maintained as per the manufacturer’s recommendations
- That all personal protective equipment is in good condition, correctly stored, readily available and replaced with new when needed
- To regularly set in place risk assessments of a workplace before setting in place measures to reduce the risk of harm and injury to employees, other workers and people who visit a working environment
Should your employer not abide by any of the above or they ignore any Health and Safety Executive regulations which results in a workplace accident that leaves you suffering from chemical poisoning, they could be held liable for the injuries you sustained and their insurance providers would have to pay you the compensation you deserve.
Are There Any Benefits to Working With a Solicitor on a Chemical Poisoning Claim?
Having a specialist accident at work solicitor work with you when filing a chemical poisoning claim against an employer, offers many benefits some of which are detailed below:
- Once the firm of solicitors establishes that you have a strong chemical poisoning claim which they would do by offering a no obligation initial consultation, they would represent you on a No Win No Fee basis taking all the financial worries of how to pay for their legal services out of the equation. This allows you to place all your focus on your recovery
- Lawyers have access to the legal libraries which allows them to look for “precedents”. This can be used as a basis when filing a chemical poisoning claim on your behalf
- A specialist firm of solicitors would arrange for you to be examined by an independent consultant and their medical report would be an essential when it comes to negotiating your chemical poisoning compensation
- Lawyers have vast experience when it comes to communicating with liability insurance providers and they are aware of all the pre-action protocols that must be respected when first making a personal injury claim against a negligent employer
- The level of compensation you receive would be expertly negotiated by the solicitor you choose to represent you. This ensures that the amount you are awarded is acceptable
- You only have to pay the solicitor the “success fee” that you agreed when signing the No Win No Fee agreement with them, when your case is upheld and the percentage that is payable is deducted from the amount of compensation you receive
What is the Time Limit to Making a Chemical Poisoning Claim Against My Employer?
If you were involved in a workplace accident where hazardous and/or toxic substances were present, you have 3 years to seek compensation from your employer providing you have enough evidence to validate your claim. The 3 year statutory time limit is as follows:
- 3 years starting from the date that you were involved in a workplace accident that left you injured or harmed
- 3 years starting from the date of being diagnosed as suffering from a medical condition that is directly linked to the workplace accident where hazardous chemicals were present
- 3 years starting from the date your turn 18 years of age if the workplace accident happened before you were 18 years old
It is far better to start a chemical poisoning claim as early as possible because this type of personal injury claim can often be a long-drawn out, complicated legal process and gathering all the information needed to prove and strengthen a claim, can take a long time all in itself. Working with a solicitor can make the process a lot easier to understand and it will mean that you don’t have to worry about all the legal pitfalls associated with accident at work claims.
Can My Employer Fire Me For Filing a Chemical Poisoning Claim Against Them?
Your employer would be breaking the law if they threaten you with the sack or redundancy for seeking compensation from them if you suffer chemical poisoning in the workplace. As previously mentioned, you have specific “rights”, one of which is to seek compensation from an employer if they fail to keep you safe from injury and harm in the workplace.
A responsible employer would admit liability and would make sure that you receive the correct level of chemical poisoning compensation you rightly deserve. However, some employer’s may object and if they treat you unfairly or detrimentally when you inform them that you intend on filing a personal injury claim against them, you should contact a lawyer who specialises in employment law because you could also be entitled to file a detriment claim as well as take out further legal action against your employer.
Would a Solicitor Work on a No Win No Fee Basis on My Chemical Poisoning Claim?
As previously touched upon, once a firm of solicitors has established that your employer could be held liable for the injuries you sustained in a workplace accident involving hazardous materials or toxic substances, they would typically offer to work with you on a No Win No Fee basis. This allows you to place your main focus on your chemical poisoning recovery while the solicitor deals with all aspects of your claim.
Having signed a Conditional Fee Agreement, you would not have to pay the firm of solicitors an upfront fee nor would there be any ongoing payments to find as your chemical poisoning claim progresses. The CFA lays out the Terms and Conditions of the legal contract and it also sets out the percentage known as a “success fee” that would only be payable to the solicitor if you win your claim. The fee is then deducted from the chemical poisoning compensation you are awarded. Should you lose your case, you would not have to pay the solicitor for the legal representation they provided in a chemical poisoning claim.
If you would like to know more about reporting an accident in the workplace that involves a hazardous substance to RIDDOR, please follow the link below:
To find out more about your worker’s rights following an accident at work, please click on the link below: