Introduction to chemical burn injuries
Chemical burns can cause severe pain and suffering. In serious cases, chemicals can result in long-term disability or disfigurement.
Industries such as manufacturing, laboratories, mining, construction, agriculture and cleaning all use significant amounts of chemicals on a regular basis. However, if the correct health and safety regulations are in place, the risks to employees should be minimised.
If an employee is exposed to harmful chemicals and suffers a burn as a result, it may be possible to seek compensation. During the claim process, the health and safety procedures of the employer will be reviewed to ascertain whether the employer was negligent.
What is a chemical burn?
Chemical burns occur when irritants, such as acids or bases (alkaline), come into contact with the skin or eyes.
Common irritants include sodium hydroxide, ammonia, sulphuric acid, nitric acid and phosphoric acid, which are found in many products and industry processes.
Products containing harmful chemicals can be found in bleach, industrial cleaners and detergents, concrete, rust proofing, car battery fluid, fertiliser, metal refining compounds and materials used in dentistry .
Common symptoms of chemical burns include:
- Blackened or dead skin
- Irritation, redness and burning
- Numbness or pain of affected area
- Loss or changes in vision if they come in contact with the eyes
Chemical burns can also affect the internal organs if swallowed, causing symptoms such as shortness of breath, irregular heartbeat and seizures.
Unfortunately, chemical burns are not always immediately obvious, and a delay in treatment can make symptoms and recovery much worse.
Liability for chemical burns depends on where the incident took place, and the circumstances involved. If an employee suffers a chemical burn in the workplace, the employer could be held liable if the adequate safety measures and procedures were not in place.
There are a number of legal guidelines and requirements that employers and companies must follow with regard to potentially dangerous substances which can cause chemical burns. These include:
- Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 - this outlines the general duties of an employer to ensure the health and safety of their employees, including carrying out adequate risk assessments and putting safety controls in place.
- The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 - this provides specific advice on managing dangerous substances in the workplace. Every employer has a responsibility to prevent workers from, or reasonably control, their exposure to them.
- Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) - this applies when any substance is manufactured or imported into the EU in amounts greater than one tonne.
Within The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002, employers have a duty to:
- carry out risk assessments
- provide protective equipment
- store and maintain substances safely
- clean up regularly
- train staff in its dangers
- use and provide sufficient emergency first aid facilities.
If any of above are not done, and an employee suffers a chemical burn as a result, the employer could be deemed negligent.
For example, if a labourer was made to work knee deep in concrete for hours without being told of the risks and suffered chemical burns as a result, the employer would be liable.
Likewise, if a factory worker suffered burns from industrial cleaning products but the employer had not provided suitable protective equipment or did not act fast enough in treatment, liability would again rest with them.
Presenting a claim
As with any claim, presenting a case for chemical burn compensation requires establishing this liability. Evidence such as medical reports, accident book records and witness accounts are all valuable sources.
Chemical burns can create long-term problems for the sufferer, so receiving the best possible compensation is essential to cover necessary treatment bills, ongoing medical care or loss of earnings. The Quittance panel of solicitors have a wealth of experience in such cases.
How much compensation could you get?
Compensation guidelines are laid out by the Judicial College (formerly the Judicial Studies Board). These awards are assessed in relation to the type and extent of the injury. Recommended compensation amounts consist of upper and lower figures for any specific injury.
Technically these guidelines are not law yet insurance companies, solicitors and the Courts will follow them in the majority of cases. A Compensation Claims Report will include a in-depth assessment and calculation of the compensation you claim could be worth in reference to both the Judicial College guidelines and to the circumstances of your accident or illness.
To supplement an award for general damages, it is possible to make a compensation claim for costs you have incurred during treatment and ongoing care.
What happens next?
Find out more about the claims process
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Get answers to questions asked by potential Claimants on our frequently asked questions page.
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