Silica dust: just as deadly as asbestos?
Anna Thorp, Paralegal within our Personal Injury department discusses the dangers of silica dust and explains how we can help with claiming compensation.
I am currently acting for a gentleman who was exposed to chemicals in the course of his employment as a maintenance engineer with a well-known supplier of blasting and surface treatment equipment based in Sheffield.
He was in their employment as a maintenance engineer for a number of years and was required to maintain and repair machines and machine parts in his role. This would often lead him to working in and around a sponge manufacturing machine. This machine would be mixing chemicals to produce powder which would then be formed into a sponge. The machine would produce dust and/or chemicals constantly throughout the working day.
Our client attended upon his GP on several occasions over the course of a few years complaining of wheeze, cough, breathlessness, and a feeling of being tight chested. During our client’s employment with the Defendant Company, his condition deteriorated resulting in him being prescribed steroids and antibiotics on a number of occasions for chest infections and esophageal reflux.
After having discussions with his wife and family, our client approached our firm and after an initial telephone appointment we began investigating matters on his behalf under a no win no fee agreement.
Our client informed us that in the course of his employment he was exposed to inter alia isocyanate, polyol and dichloromethane on a daily basis.
Our client was provided with basic dust masks, but these were of little help. Our client felt that the ventilation that the Company had in place was inadequate and when he complained to management about his ongoing symptoms, his employer did not take action to improve the working conditions.
Unfortunately, our client had time off work on a number of occasions as a result of his exposure to chemicals. He would find that his symptoms often improved when he was not in work.
We instructed an independent consultant to prepare a medical report and it was determined that he was suffering with a work exacerbated constitutional asthma.
During our investigations of the matter, it has come to light that the Client’s employer, the Defendant in this matter, did commission an occupational hygiene survey during our client’s employment. This survey was commissioned to establish if the Defendant was complying with the COSHH regulations (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002). This survey concluded that the Defendant should install ventilation systems and provide personal protective equipment i.e., masks of a better standard when working with and around chemicals. The survey also stated:
‘The inhalation of isocyanates has been associated with a range of complaints, including coughing, wheezing, chest discomfort, acute oedema and interstitial pulmonary fibrosis, as well as covert decrement of lung function….’
An article produced by the Health and Safety Executive titled Asthmagen? Critical Assessments of the Evidence for Agents Implicated in Occupational Asthma, states there is a strong body of evidence that isocyanates cause occupational asthma in a significant proportion of exposed workers.
Isocyanates are widely used in the manufacture of polyurethane foams, plastics, coatings, and adhesives.
Our client’s claim continues as against his employer, and we are hopeful we will be able to secure compensation for our Client.
Our client has since sought alternative employment and his symptoms have improved. Our client may well always suffer with sensitivity to certain chemicals and as such he actively tries to avoid any chemicals in his day-to-day life.
If you believe that you have suffered injury due to exposure to chemicals at work, please contact our specialist team on 01429 225200 or fill in an online enquiry form and someone will be in touch.Call: 01429 225200