Solvent exposure compensation claims

In this guide we set out what you should know about making a solvent exposure compensation claim.

How much can I claim?

Solvents, also known as VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds), are used in a wide variety of industries, including engineering, construction, footwear, textiles, rubber, dry cleaning, chemical, woodworking and printing.

If not managed with appropriate procedures, training and protective equipment, some solvents can cause serious and long-term health problems.

If an employee or member of the public is harmed by negligent use or storage of solvents, the affected individual may be entitled to make an industrial disease compensation claim.

Chemical worker

Do I have a solvent exposure claim?

If you were injured as the result of solvent exposure in the last three years and someone else was to blame, then we can help you make a compensation claim.

Do I have a claim?

Solvent exposure in the workplace

Potentially harmful solvents include acetone, ethyl acetate, toluene, xylene and white spirit.

When working in an environment that may involve exposure to harmful solvents, there are three paths in which these chemicals can the body and cause injury. In most cases, solvents can be inhaled, ingested or swallowed, or absorbed into the skin.

Inadequate protection

Harmful exposure that may result in a claim frequently occurs as a result of inadequate personal protective equipment (PPE) and other health and safety breaches.

Employers must take reasonable steps to protect employees with suitable PPE, but exposure alone may not be sufficient grounds for a claim. If the employer had taken all reasonable steps to ensure the safety of staff and exposure still occurs, pursuing a claim may be difficult. Success may depend on the facts of the case.

What are the symptoms of solvent exposure?

The symptoms experienced as a result of VOCs entering your bloodstream can vary, depending on the level of exposure and the length of time involved. In the short term, inhaling, ingesting or absorbing solvents can make an affected individual feel nauseous and dizzy, and they may experience a headache.

Because the symptoms are similar to being drunk, a affected employee is more likely to make an error in judgement that could cause further harm.

Solvents can also cause irritation of the eyes and skin, such as itching or rashes. In addition, the lungs can be affected by VOC exposure, potentially making breathing more difficult. In the longer-term, sleep problems and psychological issues can also become apparent.

Long-term issues

If an individual is exposed to VOCs over a long period of time, they may experience symptoms such as problems with kidney and liver functions. Solvents can also cause damage to the brain and central nervous system, and affect fertility levels. Some solvents are also considered to be carcinogenic.

A solicitor will arrange for a detailed medical report to be carried out at the outset of a claim to ensure that the appropriate level of compensation is sought.

Control of Substances Hazardous to Health

If your work involves potential exposure to solvents, your employer has a legal obligation to prevent this exposure from reaching dangerous levels. Solvents are one of several chemicals that are governed by regulations known as Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH). These regulations are designed to protect people who are working with dangerous chemicals, and prevent health problems from occurring as a result.

The Health and Safety Executive recommends that employers in industries that use solvents should follow an 'assess, control and review approach'.

Assessing involves determining the exact nature of work that involves using solvents, as well as who will be completing this work. The employer should also ascertain whether or not there may be others working in the vicinity who may be affected.

Employers should determine what level of solvents are in the chemicals that are to be used, as well as checking how volatile these levels are: do they evaporate on reaching room temperature, for example? How the work is to be completed is an important consideration. For example, spraying with solvent based chemicals is considered a lot more hazardous than painting.

The environment in which VOCs are used is an important component of the COSHH guidelines. Employers must review the size of the area in which people are working with these chemicals, and make checks for appropriate ventilation.

Employees should not be exposed to solvents at all where possible. If this is not possible, organisations have an obligation to control exposure as much as is practical. They should provide Personal Protective Equipment such as goggles, gloves, overalls and Respiratory Protective Equipment where needed.

Employers are also obliged to provide appropriate training, and to make regular checks on equipment and employees themselves. If these obligations are not met, and you have been exposed to solvents in a manner that has endangered your health, you may be entitled to claim compensation.

How much compensation can I claim for a solvent exposure injury?

The amount of compensation you will receive depends on a number of factors. Our personal injury compensation calculator provides an accurate estimate of your likely compensation.

How much can I claim?

No win, no fee solvent exposure claims - the facts

Legal Aid is no longer available for injury claims.

Personal injury solicitors now work on a No Win, No Fee basis.

No Win, No Fee means that if your claim is not successful, you will not need to pay any legal fees.

If you do win your case, a success fee will be deducted from the compensation award and paid to your solicitor.

Read more about how a No Win, No Fee agreement works

Meet the team

Our national panel of solicitors help injured people with all types of industrial disease claims and have a wealth of expertise with short-term, serious and life-changing injury claims. Chosen on the basis of their track record in winning claims, Quittance's panel solicitors have years of dedicated experience.

Meet more of the QLS team: click here.

Kevin Walker Serious Injury Panel Solicitor
Tim Fieldhouse Industrial Disease Panel Solicitor
Shahida Chaudery Complex Injury Claims Panel Solicitor
Jonathan Speight, Senior litigator

About the author

Jonathan has over 30 years' experience in the personal injury sector and has been awarded the rank of Senior Litigator by the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL).

Read more about this Quittance Legal Expert

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