Toxic tort claims are very specific types of compensation claims that are associated with exposure to hazardous substances. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has identified 400 toxic substances. These are listed in the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health 2002 (COSHH) Act.
Some of these substances are routinely used in various industries. The COSHH Act provides detailed information regarding safety measures that should be put in place where the use of such substances is unavoidable.
Hazardous Substances And Their Adverse Effects
Recognising the different hazardous substances, their effects and the precautionary measures associated with each is important in order to prevent exposure to these substances or at least, to minimise the damage caused due to the exposure.
Silica is a naturally-occurring mineral found in rock, soil and sand, all of which are commonly used in the construction industry. Workers employed on construction sites may be exposed to silica dust when working with rock, concrete or any masonry products. When inhaled, the tiny particles of silica dust enter the small air sacs in the lungs causing scarring and hardening of lung tissue. This is known as silicosis.
Symptoms of silicosis include permanent shortness of breath, pain in the chest, persistent coughing and general weakness and fatigue. The hardening of the tissues also puts the individual at greater risk of developing other respiratory complications such as bronchitis, tuberculosis and lung cancer.
Silicosis is an untreatable condition. Once it sets in it continues to advance and the symptoms get progressively worse. In some cases, it can be fatal.
If you have silicosis and believe it’s because of an employers negligence, you may be eligible to make a silicosis compensation claim.
Welders in action are a fairly common sight at construction sites, car manufacturing factories, refineries, and power plants, but what is not commonly known are the health consequences associated with exposure to the welder’s torch. As the intense heat burns through the surface of the metal, toxic fumes are emitted. Inhaling these fumes can result in multiple adverse conditions, from acute metal poisoning to kidney disease, lung cancer and Parkinson’s disease.
The dangers are compounded when the welding rod is used on older paint-covered metal as older paints were lead-based. Lead is one of the hazardous substances listed in the COSHH. Exposure to lead can result in lead poisoning.
Exposure to asbestos can lead to the development of Mesothelioma, a rare, untreatable type of cancer. When asbestos fibres are inhaled, they get trapped in the lungs and invade the lining of the lungs triggering symptoms that range from chest pain, breathing difficulties and persistent coughing to fatigue, abdominal pain and unexplained weight loss. The symptoms usually develop only several years after the exposure. By this time the condition has reached an advanced stage and is untreatable.
Before the 1980s, asbestos was often used as a fire retardant in the construction, ship-building and car manufacturing industries. The use of asbestos was banned sometime in the 1980s after studies proved the dangers of inhaling asbestos fibres. Today asbestos exposure can still occur when doing repair or renovation work on older buildings such as schools and homes that often contain some amount of asbestos. Disturbing the existing asbestos can result in exposure to the fibres, which if inhaled can put the individual at risk of developing mesothelioma.
If you have developed mesothelioma and believe it is because of working conditions you may have a case for making a mesothelioma compensation claim.
Arsenic is used in a variety of industries including glass production, pesticides, smelting, electronics, wood treatment, and metal foundries among others. The symptoms of arsenic poisoning may include stomach cramps, vomiting, excessive sweating, shock or seizures. The severity of the symptoms depends on the extent of the exposure.
Where the use of arsenic in a workplace is unavoidable, the COSHH Act has very specific guidelines for employers to follow. This includes among other things providing workers with extensive training as well as appropriate protective equipment to prevent exposure.
Carbon monoxide (CO) is produced when carbon-based substances such as coal, oil, gas and wood are burned without sufficient air supply. If these substances are burned in an enclosed space, carbon monoxide levels can build up quickly. Breathing in this gas can result in CO poisoning, which is potentially fatal. This is because carbon monoxide mixes with haemoglobin in the body, forming a toxic compound. This toxic compound stops the blood from being able to supply oxygen to the various cells and tissues, which eventually die from lack of oxygen.
Exposure to contaminated soil usually occurs on or near older industrial sites where improper disposal techniques, accidental spillages and other malpractices contaminated the surrounding land. While the government has put strict regulations in place regarding toxic waste disposal and other precautionary measures, major damage was done when these regulations were nonexistent.
Working in or around contaminated land can result in chronic exposure to dangerous pollutants such as asbestos, heavy metals and toxic solvents. In some areas, the soil may be contaminated by radioactive substances. Exposure to these substances can result in serious complications and even death from organ failure, and different types of cancer.
Pesticides And Herbicides
Pesticides and herbicides play an important role in the agricultural industry, where they are used to protect plants and crops from damage by various plant pests. However, ingesting these very pesticides can be harmful over a long period of time. Symptoms may include excessive sweating, blurred vision, headache, dizziness, stomach cramps, fatigue, contracted pupils and loss of appetite with nausea.
Farmers and those who work within the agricultural industry are at highest risk of long-term health effects of pesticide poisoning resulting from inhaling the fumes or direct contact on the skin.
Adverse health effects due to radiation exposure are usually associated with ionising radiation, which is different from the non-ionising radiation exposure that occurs every day when we use the microwave or listen to radio waves. Exposure to ionising radiation produces severe chemical reactions in the body. The results occur almost immediately after the exposure.
Radiation sickness most commonly occurs in nuclear power plants and diagnostic centres where X-Rays, CAT-Scans and other investigative tests are carried out.
Protective Measures If Hazardous Substances Are Present
According to the HSE, wherever possible, known hazardous materials, processes or equipment must be replaced by a less toxic alternative. If no known alternative exists, then proper precautionary measures must be put in place. This includes ensuring there is adequate ventilation in the room where the hazardous material is being used and proper isolation in the storage facility. Most importantly, all employees working directly or indirectly with any hazardous material, process or equipment must be given adequate training and provided with protective clothing, ventilators and masks to minimise exposure.
Failure to comply with these guidelines in the workplace can result in a toxic torts claim filed by the individual affected by the exposure.