Accident at work leaves Lancashire man partially blind

A Unite member has received a six-figure settlement after he was left partially blind in one eye due to an accident at work.

The 45-year-old member, who works as a manufacturing technician for a chemical processing firm, was involved in flushing out a large section of pipework for maintenance work. 

Unbeknown to him, a blockage in the pipework had led to a fluid build-up. When the blockage was released, the process fluids that contained chemicals were ejected under pressure. The force with which the fluids sprayed out dislodged the member’s hard hat and protective goggles.

The member was rushed to a nearby safety shower and was taken to hospital where the fluids were washed from his eyes but not before the chemicals had caused severe burns to his head, face and eyes. Over the years that followed he had to undergo multiple surgeries, including a replacement of his cornea and the removal of a cataract.

The member was off work for six months and returned on light duties. His skin has since healed but he has permanently damaged vision in his right eye.

He contacted Unite Legal Services to pursue a claim for compensation on his behalf.

The member said: “The maintenance work was a routine job, so I never expected there to be the chemical explosion. I was fortunate that the showers were right by me – had I not been able to rinse the chemicals off straight away I may well have completely lost my vision.

“Simple things like making a cup of tea or using a phone are now very difficult because of the damage to my sight. I’ve been in and out of surgery for more than five years and I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that I’m never going to see properly again.

“I’d like to thank the medical team that treated me in hospital, as well as my union, who fought for me to be compensated for the trauma I was put through.”

Mick Whitley, North West regional secretary at Unite the Union, said: “Our member was wearing protective gloves and goggles while he was working near the pipework, but if his employer had completed an adequate risk assessment it would have identified that the PPE wasn’t enough to protect him if he came into direct contact with the chemicals.

“His quick thinking, combined with the efforts of the medical team in hospital, meant that he avoided suffering what could have been catastrophic injuries. Even so, the accident has still left him with terrible sight damage and scarring which has had a long term impact on his health and wellbeing.

“The man’s membership of Unite meant that not only has he received substantial damages but he has also been supported throughout the rehabilitation process and has received compensation to help recover financial losses for his sustained period away from work.”