Member develops dermatitis after exposure to chemical fumes at work

A 56-year-old Unite member from Telford has received £8,500 compensation after he was exposed to chemical fumes at work, which caused him to develop dermatitis.

The engineer, who was employed at a food company, was asked to prepare pipework in a tank. The tank was supposed to be filled with water but unbeknown to him it had been cleaned with a chemical, which had not been drained.

The member lifted the lid of the tank and was instantly hit by fumes, causing him to feel nauseous and suffer burning pain in his left hand and face. He immediately rushed to a sink to wash himself before reporting the incident.

He suffered from blistering to the skin on his left hand and irritation to his eyes. When the symptoms did not improve, he went to hospital where he was diagnosed with dermatitis.

He was prescribed with E45 cream and eye drops, but continues to suffer from skin irritation almost four years after the accident happened.

He contacted Unite Legal Services to investigate a compensation claim.

He said: “Working with chemicals wasn’t usually something that I had to do, and I wasn’t given overalls or gloves that were suitable for dealing with harmful substances. There were no markings on the tank to suggest what it was filled with so I opened it without any idea that anything was wrong. I was immediately taken aback by the strong smell of the fumes inside.

“Even four years later, I feel like I’m constantly fighting my condition. If I don’t apply cream and eye drops the irritation flares up.”

Mick Tuff, regional officer at Unite the Union, said: “The importance of keeping all employees adequately trained in line with Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) regulations is crucial to avoid accidents like this from happening.

“Unfortunately for our member, a mistake made by a colleague in not draining the chemical from the tank has caused long-term problems to his health, which could have been avoided if the correct processes had been followed.

“Through his membership of Unite, we made sure that he received 100% of the compensation secured for him.”