hazardous substances work

Hazardous Substances At Work Claim: Proving Your Employer Is Legally Responsible For Work-Related Illness

Discover a simple guide to the laws in the United Kingdom used to determine your employer’s legal responsibility for industrial disease caused by exposure to hazardous substances at work – including the importance of your employer’s state of knowledge of how dangerous a material is as well as how to make a claim against more than one employer.

When is your employer legally responsible for occupational injury from exposure to hazardous substances at work?

The process to determine legal responsibility of your exposure to hazardous materials and substances at work – depends to a certain degree on the employer’s presumed knowledge of the danger posed by the substance or material.

When industry first manufactures a new material it follows a learning process as to its safety. As time goes by your employer develops an increased understanding of any safety risks to employees known as his “state of knowledge”.

Using asbestos as an example your employer’s “state of knowledge” follows this path:

No suspicion that the substance is hazardous

Before asbestos was manufactured it was tested. At first no harm to workers was suspected and asbestos was generally accepted to be a miracle substance: strong, able to resist heat and chemical attack.

If you develop lung disease at this stage – it is unlikely that your employer is legally responsible for your claim.

Large employers start to realise a risk to the health and safety of workers

A large employer has many workers exposed to asbestos and as time goes by it will record data on their health. Trends can be spotted showing that employees begin to show symptoms of illness over certain periods of time. It may well show that workers exposed to more asbestos dust develop these symptoms faster than others.

A large employer should now take steps to stop your exposure at work to asbestos dust. Should steps failed to be taken and you develop an industrial disease – it is likely that large employers will be legally responsible for your hazardous substances at work compensation claim.

Small employers become aware of the risk to the occupational health of their workers

Once large employers become aware of the risk of health to employees eventually this knowledge reaches smaller employers who also start to recognize symptoms amongst their work force.

All employers, both large and small, should now take steps to stop your exposure at work to asbestos dust – if these steps are not taken and you develop a lung disease it is likely that your employer will be legally responsible for your asbestosis compensation claim.

Knowledge of risk is in the public domain

Once the knowledge is in the public domain and accepted as fact – laws will be made by government to protect employees from the danger of a substance.

At this stage – if your employer does not follow the law to protect you from exposure to asbestos, your asbestosis compensation claim has its best chances of succeeding.

The initial symptoms of many industrial disease, such as lung disease from exposure to asbestos – can take many years to be detected. Do not let this stop you from contacting a solicitor to make a claim as soon as symptoms are detected as your date of knowledge of injury may well be a determining factor as to whether you are still in time to make a hazardous substances at work claim.

Once your employer is aware of the danger of dust inhalation of certain materials what laws apply in the UK?

Once the dangers of exposure to specific hazardous substances at work are known the use of the substance will be controlled by a law known as The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002. This law requires your employer to take many safety steps, including a risk assessment of the working environment.

Additional Laws For Specific Substances
Additional health and safety laws may be relevant to specific hazardous materials, such as The Control Of Asbestos Regulations 2012.

Remember – the laws that apply to determining your employer’s responsibility for an accident at work claim will typically apply equally to an hazardous substance at work claim.

Click accident at work claim to find out how to show your employer is responsible for your workplace occupational injury claim

protecting workers harmful substances
Protecting Workers From Harmful Substances

The answer to this question will depend on how dangerous the hazardous substance is.

For example – asbestos produces a very dangerous dust: it only takes one asbestos fibre to cause mesothelioma. In this knowledge – it is very difficult for an employer to protect every employee from exposure to a single asbestos fibre, so in modern times an employer will struggle to avoid legal responsibility.

Of course, the one step an employer could take is not to use asbestos – this is now happening across the world.

What steps can your employer take to keep your exposure to hazardous substances at work to a minimum?

Using the example of hazardous dust at work. The steps your employer can take to limit your exposure to dust in the workplace are quite straight forward and include:

Protective Face Masks

Providing you with a protective face mask – able to cover both the nose and mouth with instructions that it should be worn at all times in a dusty environment.

Good Ventilation

Providing good ventilation to the workplace – allowing fresh air to enter and harmful dust to exit.

Removing Dust From The Workplace

Removing dust from hazardous substances from the workplace as it is produced by suction.

Piping Fresh Clean Air

Piping fresh clean air into the work environment.

Washing Dust Away Regularly

Washing dust away regularly by wetting down of materials.

Developing A Less Harmful Material

If the dust of the material is too hazardous – your employer could develop a less harmful material and switch use to it. Asbestos is now being replaced with harmless synthetic fibres.

If you have worked for several employers which use the same hazardous substance – who do you make your claim against?

Length of time at each employer

A lung disease, such as asbestosis, is caused by the length of time you are exposed to asbestos dust.

Splitting liability to pay your compensation between employers

Imagine you worked for 10 years with two different employers ( 5 years for one and 5 years for another) being exposed to asbestos dust.

You can make your claim against both employers – each being responsible for half of your total claim.

Making your whole claim against one employer

See our industrial injury article to see how you can claim the full amount of compensation against either employer, if the lung disease is mesothelioma.

Hazardous Substances At Work Claim Summary

This article has provided you with an overview of the laws used to win your hazardous substances at work compensation claim. We set our the steps your employer should take to protect you from the effects of harmful dust and how you can claim compensation from more than one employer.

Free Specialist Solicitor Online & Telephone Help

You should contact a specialist solicitor as soon as possible if you have been exposed to hazardous substances at work and are suffering symptoms of injury or have been diagnosed with a condition –

We provide free online / telephone specialist solicitor services. You can ask an online question, have your claim assessed or request a solicitor callback.