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Your guide to electrical and chemical accidents

Chemical worker in protective clothing

Injuries caused by electrical or chemical accidents can occur in many types of workplace including offices, factories and building sites,

Your employer has a legal duty of care to keep employees “as safe as practicably possible” from the risk of accident or injury whilst at work.  However negligence or a failure to comply with regulations can often mean that electrical equipment has not been regularly or adequately checked, or maintained. In addition. a lack of proper training, information and warning signs can lead to corrosive, flammable liquids or compressed gases being stored or handled carelessly.  A further danger is electrical faults, which can start a fire or cause an explosion and release toxic chemical fumes.

Employees who are more at risk of an injury because they use electrical appliances or chemical products every day in their place of work include:

  • Catering / kitchen staff
  • Cleaners
  • Construction/maintenance workers
  • Electricians / electrical installers
  • Hairdressers
  • Hospital/care home staff
  • Maintenance workers
  • Office workers
  • Theatre production staff

If you have good grounds to believe that you have been injured because your employer failed in their legal responsibility to comply with workplace regulations, you may decide to pursue a claim for compensation.

Your Legal Friend has an in-depth knowledge of workplace law and injury compensation and over 30 years of experience in successfully managing workplace compensation claims. We can provide you with all the expert guidance you will need to help you make your case and secure the best possible settlement. 

Employers’ responsibilities 

Under Control of Substances Hazardous To Health (COSHH), employers are legally required to control substances that are hazardous to health and prevent exposure by taking the following steps:

  • Find out exactly what the health risks are to employees
  • Carry out risk assessments to decide how to prevent injury and harm
  • Put control measures in place to reduce harm to health and ensure they are carried out

Employers must also:

  • Provide information, instruction and training for employees and others
  • Implement monitoring and health surveillance where necessary
  • Plan for emergencies
  • Keep all control measures in good working order

Accident statistics

  • One in seven deaths and one in 100 non-fatal injuries in the workplace include electricity, explosion, and fire.          (RIDDOR, 2011/12)
  • 350,000 people had sustained a serious injury caused by an electrical shock          (Electrical Safety Council, 2011)
  • 1.3 to 4 million adults could have received a mains voltage electric shock.           (Electrical Safety Council, 2010)

Electrical accidents

The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 states that any electrical equipment with the potential to cause injury must be maintained in a safe condition.

Most electrical accidents occur because people are working on or near equipment that is unsafe including:

  • Faulty
  • Power socket loosely attached to wall or machinery
  • Internal wiring no longer makes secure connection
  • Wiring exposed
  • Incorrectly wired or fused
  • Thought to be ‘dead’ but is actually ‘live’

An electrical shock may cause more severe harm than may be generally realised, including:

An electrical shock can also result in complications, which could mean long term physical problems.  

PAT testing

Portable Appliance Testing (PAT) is the approved examination and testing of an individual electrical appliance or item of equipment, which is passed and labelled for safe use.

A basic inspection list includes the assessment of:

  • Cable sheath damage
  • Power plug damage
  • Coloured insulation of internal cable cores to show where they enter power plug 
  • Damage to equipment external casing, loose screws or parts
  • Evidence of overheating
  • Damaged or incorrectly operating main on/off switches.

Under the Health and Safety Act of 1974, employers have a duty of care to ensure that the necessary health and safety precautions are taken in the handling of electrical equipment in the workplace.

Your employer may be liable if you suffered an injury caused by an electrical accident, which could have been prevented if the regulations had been enforced.

Chemical Accidents

Chemicals, liquids or dyes used in a number of workplaces may be corrosive or toxic and will cause chemical injury or other damage. Working with harmful and dangerous substances in the workplace poses a severe risk of health damage if employers do not provide the relevant training, safety equipment or try to eliminate exposure where possible.

An employer should put into place and ensure the enforcement of:

  • Correct handling and storage procedures
  • Wearing of the correct type of personal protection equipment (PPE)

Classification of chemicals includes categories such as:

  • Toxic by inhalation and if swallowed
  • Very toxic to aquatic organisms
  • Keep locked up and out of reach of children
  • In case of contact with eyes, rinse immediately with plenty of water and seek medical advice.

Exposure

Many types of substances, chemicals and dyes, which are used widely in different industries, can have extremely harmful side effects, depending on the type and extent of exposure.

Health damage may be caused in a number of ways, such as:

  • Breathing in fumes
  • Absorption through the skin
  • Being swallowed
  • Direct skin contact

Workplace Exposure Limits (WELs)

WELs are the UK limits that indicate how long an employee should be allowed to work with concentrations of hazardous substances in the air.

Short-term is 15 minutes – intended to help prevent effects such as eye irritation, which may occur following a brief exposure.

Long-term is 8 hours - where exposure is at a low level and the effects of a chemical injury may only become known when the symptoms eventually appear and are able to be diagnosed.

Chemical poisoning can lead to a variety of symptoms, such as:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abnormal heart beat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Skin rash or irritation 

Making a claim

Your occupation may involve using potentially dangerous chemicals as part of the company’s expected daily routine. Typical examples can often include a farm or agricultural worker, vehicle mechanic, hairdresser, cleaner or pest controller.

In some cases, employers may simply overlook or neglect basic safety guidelines and risk putting your health in danger.

To succeed in a claim for an injury caused by an electrical or chemical accident, you will need to show that your employer should have reasonably “foreseen” that exposure to substances could cause injury or damage to health.

In many cases, an employer will have failed in his legal responsibility and duty of care to provide one or more of the following legal requirements:

  • Regular risk assessments and routine safety inspections
  • A safe system of work put into place.

 How Your Legal Friend can help you

As experienced personal injury specialists, we have over 30 years of experience in managing compensation cases involving accidents at work.  We are committed to guiding you through every step of the process and ensuring that your claim is handled carefully and professionally by specialist solicitors with a record of success in this field.

Our in-depth knowledge of workplace law and injury compensation can provide you with all the expert guidance you will need to help you succeed in making your claim.  We can:

  • work with you on a guaranteed no win, no fee basis
  • help you with medical treatment, rehabilitation and your return to work
  • ensure care and support services are available for the most serious injuries
  • advise you on how to claim for DWP benefits to help you along the way
  • skilfully manage your compensation claim to include:
    • payment for the pain and suffering caused by your injury
    • any financial losses you’ve incurred already, such as lost wages, travel and medical expenses
    • any expenses you may need in the future.

Talk to us today

For an informal, confidential chat with one of our specialist personal injury solicitors, call us now on 0808 163 5645 (calls free from landlines and mobiles). Or just complete the 'Start a new claim’ option on the right and we'll call you straight back.