Electrical technician suffers acid burns in accident at work

A father-of-three from Newcastle has received £210,000 in damages after suffering acid burns and developing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) following an accident at work.

At the time of the incident, the 59-year-old Unite member, who worked as an electrical technician for a pharmaceutical company, was disconnecting pipes from a tank that housed acid.

The pipes connecting the tank to the computer system were supposed to have been drained by another colleague, but this hadn’t happened and as he started working acid still in the pipework sprayed directly onto him.

He ran to a nearby safety shower, but the skin on his right leg, right arm and face was already severely burnt and his vision was impaired.

The member was rushed to a critical burns unit where he spent three weeks having two skin graft operations. He has had to continue visiting a nurse three times a week to change the dressings that cover his burns and has had to have surgery to repair the damaged skin on his eyelids. Since the accident he has developed PTSD, which stops him from working.

The member contacted Unite Legal Services who investigated a claim for compensation on his behalf. Unite Legal Services went on to secure interim payments and a final settlement of £210,000.

He said: “As soon as the acid hit me I thought I was going to die. I instinctively sprinted to the showers, but the acid was in my eyes and I could barely see anything. It was the longest few seconds of my life.

“The skin graft has really restricted what I can do. I used to love riding my motorbike and playing rugby but I don’t have the mobility or the confidence anymore. The accident has changed my life completely; I don’t know what I would do if my wife wasn’t here to help me with day-to-day activities like showering and dressing.

“I am alive today thanks to the medical team that treated me when I first came into the hospital – I cannot describe how grateful I am for this. And with the support of Unite Legal Services, my family and I have had legal experts fighting to make sure we have compensation for my lost years of employment as well as what I went through, which we wouldn’t have had if it wasn’t for my trade union.”

Karen Reay, regional secretary at Unite the Union, said: “When working with hazardous chemicals, it’s a given that workers must be fully protected at all times. Our member was wearing a hard hat, safety googles and a boiler suit at the time of the accident, which was inadequate against the devastating effects of the acid.

“A mistake from one of his colleagues meant that a routine job suddenly turned his life upside-down to the point where he has limited mobility, damaged vision and is unlikely to return to work.

“This accident should never have happened but through membership of Unite the Union, we were able to make sure that our member and his family were expertly represented at an extremely traumatic time, with access to medical experts and interim payments before the final settlement.”