When the term solvent is used many people automatically think of glue-like substances. In simple terms, a solvent is a chemical product used to dissolve or dilute other substances. Commonly referred to as Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) they are not only part of everyday business life but commonplace in our everyday lives. Injuries received as a consequence of contact with solvents can sometimes be difficult to diagnose as some will prompt an instant reaction while others may take some time to emerge.
Importantly, if you’ve suffered because of exposure to solvent at work, this guide on solvent exposure injury claims will explain when you could be eligible to claim compensation for any problems that result.
To learn more about solvent exposure injury claims, please continue reading. Otherwise, call our team on 0800 6524 881 today to discuss your claim right away.
Table of contents
- What Is A Solvent?
- Am I Eligible To Make A Solvent Exposure Injury Claim?
- How Can Employers Reduce The Risk Of Exposure To Solvents In The Workplace?
- How Much Compensation For Solvent Exposure Could I Claim?
- Solvent Exposure Compensation Amounts Guide
- Evidence To Support A Solvent Exposure Injury Claim
- Time Limits For Claiming Compensation For Exposure To Solvents
- Starting The Solvent Exposure Injury Claims Process
A solvent is a substance that has the ability to dissolve or disperse other substances, known as solutes, to form a homogeneous mixture called a solution.
Examples of products that contain solvents include paint strippers, polishes, aerosols, adhesives, oil-based paints, dry cleaning products, cleaning products and wood preservatives.
Solvent exposure can cause injuries and illness in several ways:
- Breathing in solvent fumes. Breathing in solvents in the form of vapours, mists, or gases is a common route of exposure. This can happen in workplaces where solvents are used or in poorly ventilated areas.
- Eye contact. Eye injuries at work can happen if they’re irritated or damaged from exposure to some solvents found in the workplace.
- Skin contact. Direct contact with solvents through the skin can occur when handling or working with solvents without using appropriate PPE.
- Ingestion. Serious illness or injury can occur if you inadvertently drink a liquid solvent due to improper storage or handling.
The health effects of solvent exposure depend on factors such as the type of solvent, the duration and intensity of exposure, and individual susceptibility. Short-term exposure to solvents can cause symptoms like dizziness, headaches, nausea, eye and respiratory irritation, and in some cases, loss of consciousness. Prolonged or repeated exposure to solvents has been associated with various health conditions, including occupational dermatitis, neurological diseases and liver and kidney damage.
Secondary injuries are also possible following solvent exposure. For example, if you are overcome by solvent fumes while operating heavy machinery, there is a potential for you to lose control and cause an accident.
All employers have a legal duty of care to keep their employees as safe from harm from hazardous substances as reasonably possible. Therefore, any failure to protect you that leads to solvent exposure at work could mean you’re eligible to claim compensation against them.
Generally, you may be eligible to make a solvent exposure injury claim for compensation if you can prove that:
- Your employer was negligent (and so breached their duty of care); and
- You were exposed to solvents as a result of the negligence; and
- You became ill or sustained an injury due to solvent exposure.
If you call our advice centre, a specialist advisor will determine whether you have a valid claim or not. To help with this, they’ll assess any evidence you’ve managed to secure. We’ll explain more about this later on.
To try and reduce injuries in the workplace from exposure to solvents, employers should:
- Regularly carry out risk assessments to try and remove any potential hazards.
- Train staff on how to use solvents safely.
- Provide staff with information on the solvents they will be using including any potential dangers.
- Ensure all staff are provided with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as gloves or eye protection where needed.
- Install splash guards or other safety devices to try and prevent solvent exposure if necessary.
Failure to assess risks or make changes to working practices that could reduce injuries caused by solvent exposure could be classed as negligence and therefore lead to a personal injury claim for any suffering caused.
Two heads of loss usually make up a solvent exposure compensation claim:
- General damages – to cover your pain and suffering.
- Special damages – to recoup any costs or financial losses.
Therefore, a successful claim could lead to compensation for:
- Any physical injuries and the suffering they cause.
- Mental harm caused by the exposure such as anxiety, depression or stress.
- Loss of earnings and future lost income as well.
- Medical costs.
- Care costs – initial and ongoing for longer-term solvent exposure illnesses.
- Travel expenses.
- The cost of replacing damaged clothing and other personal property.
- Home modifications if exposure to solvents has left you with a permanent disability.
Any solvent exposure compensation claim taken on by one of our solicitors will be reviewed in detail before it’s filed with your employer to try and ensure any settlement offer is fair.
During a solvent exposure injury claim, you will need to see an independent medical expert so that they can assess the extent of your injuries. To do this, they’ll examine you, read your medical records and discuss how you’ve suffered. Their report will form the basis of any compensation claim you make.
Until your report is received, we can’t say exactly how much compensation for solvent exposure could be awarded. However, there are various medical conditions which can develop as a consequence of exposure to solvents. Therefore we’ve included some guideline compensation amounts for some of the main conditions including:
- Loss of taste can attract compensation of between £19,200 and £24,990.
- Where the claimant encounters a loss of smell the range of compensation is between £24,990 and £32,900.
- Total loss of smell and significant loss of taste can seriously impact a person’s standard of living and therefore attract enhanced compensation of between £32,900 and £39,170.
- Total loss of taste and smell is a form of disability and will attract compensation in the region of £39,170.
- The inhalation of solvent fumes which causes long-term residual damage but limited impact on lung capabilities will attract compensation of between £5,320 and £12,590.
- Chest damage leading to a degree of long-term disability will attract compensation anywhere between £31,310 and £54,830.
- Traumatic chest injuries leading to a long-term physical disability and reduced life expectancy can lead to compensation of between £65,740 and £100,670.
- Severe chest damage leading to the removal of a lung and potential long-term heart damage, resulting in severe pain and suffering, will see compensation from £100,670 up to £150,110.
- A short-term aggravation of existing medical conditions such as bronchitis where a full recovery is expected within months will attract compensation of between £2,200 and £5,320.
- Relatively minor wheezing and breathing difficulties where a full recovery is expected but the victim suffers short-term anxiety issues can lead to compensation from £5,320 up to £18,090.
- Where a full recovery is expected but an existing condition is aggravated on a long-term timescale this can lead to compensation of between £10,640 and £20,800.
- Severe short-term bronchitis and breathing difficulties, with a full recovery expected, but including varying levels of anxiety will prompt claims of between £20,800 and £31,310.
- Long-term breathing difficulties and dependence on inhalers with no definitive prognosis and impacting working/ private life will attract compensation anywhere from £31,310 up to £54,830.
- The development of emphysema and serious long-term breathing difficulties, which restrict physical activity and impact sleeping patterns, could see compensation from £54,830 up to £70,030.
- Full-blown lung cancer causing severe long-term pain and impacting life expectancy would see compensation from £70,030 up to £97,330.
- Full-blown lung cancer where the condition worsens and death is inevitable will attract compensation of between £100,670 and £135,920.
- Exposure to solvents which brings on relatively mild asthma, bronchitis and chest problems of a short-term nature will prompt compensation of up to £5,150.
- Relatively mild asthma symptoms could prompt compensation from £10,640 up to £19,200.
- Bronchitis and breathing difficulties which may take a few years to recover, thereby impacting social life and working life, often see compensation of between £19,200 and £26,290.
- Chronic asthma and constant use of inhalers together with a negative impact on employment prospects and an uncertain future could see compensation from £26,290 up to £43,010.
- Severe long-term asthma, prolonged coughing, difficulties sleeping, reduced physical activity and a general demise in an individual standard of living will attract compensation of £43,060 up to £65,740.
These are by no means the only medical conditions associated with solvent exposure but they give an idea of the compensation available for sensory damage and other issues.
Please remember that these are guideline figures only and the amounts cannot be guaranteed.
With regards to claiming compensation for solvent exposure injuries, you will need to collect evidence to prove what happened. While this might not be at the forefront of your mind at the time you were made ill, taking the following steps could make it easier to win your claim:
- Seek urgent medical assistance. To make sure that your injuries are treated quickly and properly, it’s vital to visit a hospital after being exposed to solvents. Later on, you could request copies of your medical records to prove how you suffered.
- Report the accident. It’s important to report any workplace accident to your employer. Legally, they’ll need to record what happened and offer you a copy of the accident report form.
- Take photographs. If you can show what caused your exposure, it’s a good idea to take as many pictures as possible. Also, any visible injuries such as chemical burns should be pictured regularly while you recover.
- Speak to witnesses. Ask anybody else who saw your accident for their contact details. If your employer denies liability for the exposure, your solicitor may be able to use witness statements to establish liability.
- Request CCTV footage. If your workplace has CCTV cameras, you can request copies of any relevant footage. Be quick here though as recordings are usually only stored for a month or so.
- Documentation of damages. It’s important to gather documentation of any physical, psychological, and financial impacts the solvent exposure has had on your life. For example, receipts for medical expenses and treatments and records of any lost wages or a reduced earning capacity etc.
Finally, it’s a good idea to seek legal advice from a personal injury solicitor on our team about your next steps. If you speak to one of our specially-trained advisors initially, they’ll review your evidence and explain your options for free.
As you may know, work-related injury claims have a 3-year time limit in the UK. For solvent exposure claims, that date will generally start from either the date you were exposed to solvents if your injuries are immediately obvious or the date a doctor diagnosed your illness and linked it to your exposure.
There are several reasons why it’s a good idea to start any type of injury claim as soon as possible. The first is that you’ll find it easier to collect evidence to support your claim. The next is that you could be entitled to interim payments to help you cover any financial costs like lost earnings or medical expenses before your claim’s settled.
You needn’t worry about any fallout at work for suing your employer for injuries or illnesses caused by solvent exposure. Legally, your employer is not allowed to discipline you for making an honest claim. Nor can they fire you, demote you, prevent training opportunities or single you out in any way because of your claim. Therefore, if you do make a solvent injury claim and are treated differently, you may also have grounds to sue for unfair or constructive dismissal.
To check whether you might be eligible to claim compensation for injuries caused by solvent exposure, simply call us on 0800 6524 881 today. All calls are handled on a no-obligation basis.
Should your claim be accepted by a solicitor from our team, they’ll manage the whole process for you and work on a No Win No Fee basis. Knowing that legal fees only need to be paid if you’re compensated will usually make the claims process much less stressful.
Our live chat team is on hand if you have any extra questions about solvent exposure injury claims so please feel free to get in touch.