How prevalent are workplace chemical injuries

Each year, the Health and Safety Executive releases figures for the number of workplace injuries sustained each year. Injuries caused by harmful substances amount to just over 2% of all injuries sustained in the workplace and unfortunately many of these are serious or even fatal. However, chemical injuries encompass more than just ‘harmful substance’ injuries. Contract dermatitis and contact urticaria can also be caused by coming into contact with the many chemicals found in the workplace, particularly in cleaning products and adhesives. Indeed, these conditions afflict 44 workers out of every 100,000 each year and there are probably many more unreported cases.

Considering the sheer number of chemicals found in workplaces across the UK, it should perhaps come as no surprise that there is a high level of chemical injuries sustained each year. There is nearly 90,000 chemicals currently in use across UK workplaces and thousands are added to that list each year. Whilst some of these chemicals are less toxic than others, there is nevertheless huge scope for accidents to occur and effective health and safety provisions are essential to prevent workers sustaining chemical injuries. If injuries are sustained, a specialist work accident solicitor should be instructed.

The potential health effects of overexposure to chemicals in the workplace are catastrophic. It is estimated that one thousand cancers caused by work are directly linked to workplace chemicals. Unfortunately a plethora of cancers can be caused by chemicals such as diesel exhaust and paint and it is time that employers started to take the prevention of such illnesses more seriously.

Employers must carry out regular risk assessments in order to negate the risks presented by the growing number of chemicals in the workplace. Findings must be communicated to staff and acted upon accordingly, whether that requires providing personal protective equipment, looking for less harmful alternatives, or limiting exposure.

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