An engineer from Telford has received £8,500 in compensation after he was exposed to acid in the course of his work, with the result that he developed dermatitis.
The 56-year-old man worked for Dairy Crest Foods at its former plant in Crudgington in Shropshire. His job did not usually involve working with hazardous chemicals, but on this occasion he had been asked to carry out engineering work on pipework inside a water tank. The tank was supposed to be filled with water, but a colleague who had cleaned it using a powerful acid cleaner had failed to drain it. There was nothing to indicate that acid was still in the tank and, when the engineer lifted the lid, he was overcome by fumes. He experienced a burning pain to his face and left hand and rushed to wash himself before reporting the incident.
The skin on his hand was blistered and his eyes were sore and irritated. When the symptoms failed to subside, he sought medical help and was diagnosed with contact dermatitis, which causes dry, itchy skin which can become very inflamed and painful. It can arise from exposure to a variety of substances found in the workplace, but can be prevented if the correct protective clothing is worn.
The condition continues to cause the engineer discomfort nearly four years after the incident and he is reliant on medication to control the symptoms.
The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 establish minimum requirements for the protection of workers from exposure to substances that can cause ill health. Employers should carry out a thorough assessment of the potential risks posed by harmful substances in their workplace and put in place strict procedures to control their use. Workers should be given training to ensure they act in accordance with the procedures laid down and provided with information explaining why compliance is important. Duties also include the provision of appropriate and adequate washing facilities to prevent or reduce the risk of injury.
Information and guidance for employers on what to do to minimise the risk of employees developing skin disease as a result of exposure to materials in the workplace that can cause ill health can be found on the Health and Safety Executive's website.