Exposure to Dust and Fumes

A company has been fined £27,000 after exposing its employees to wood dust and adhesive fumes at its manufacturing plant.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigated the company after an employee suffered anaphylactic shock. The employee suffered severe breathing difficulties after using an adhesive and being exposed to wood dust at work. His emplyers failed to comply with their duties to carry out an internal investigation into the cause of the employee’s ill-health.

They then failed to carry out a risk assessment and continued to use the materials which were causing the difficulties.

The case shows the importance of risk assessing all aspects of an employees working day, including the materials they are to be working with and any substances to which they will be exposed.

It also illustrates just how important it is to re-assess this whenever an employee is injured or becomes ill. If employers simply carry on their previous working practices without even considering the risk which they ought to be aware of, they continue to expose their employees to risk.

In this case a simple risk assessment ought to have revealed that materials were being used which were likely to cause allergic reactions. If there was no way of avoiding the use of such materials, then adequate ventilation and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) ought to have been provided. In this case at the very least the employers ought to have insisted on the use of face masks.

Gregory Abrams Davidson LLP specialise in Employers Liability Law and can advise you if you have been injured or have become ill as a result of work.