A man from Nottingham who developed a skin condition as a result of contact with the latex gloves he had to wear at work has been awarded £10,000 in compensation. The 35-year-old, who worked for the toiletries company PZ Cussons, was required to wear the gloves to protect his hands from chemicals to which he was exposed in the course of his job. Unfortunately, in 2005 he developed irritant contact dermatitis on both his hands and wrists.
No action was taken by PZ Cussons to prevent the dermatitis occurring – such as the provision of glove-liners – and the man continued to suffer outbreaks. Eventually, in 2006 he was made redundant when the factory was closed.
Medical experts provided evidence that he could suffer recurrent outbreaks of dermatitis over the next five years. As a result of the condition he was also restricted in the types of jobs he could accept after being made redundant.
Once court proceedings were started, PZ Cussons decided to settle the case.
Employers cannot afford to ignore occupational health issues. The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (CoSHH) Regulations 2002 require that an assessment is undertaken of any substances used at work that are hazardous to health. Natural rubber latex is hazardous to health. Those found to be sensitive should be monitored and given access to specialist services.
In 2004, a nurse who developed a life-threatening allergy to latex brought a claim against Swansea NHS Hospital Trust for negligence and for breach of the CoSHH Regulations. She was awarded £240,000 compensation plus a further amount in punitive damages because the Trust had not settled the case when it had the opportunity.
An employer’s primary duty under the CoSHH Regulations is to prevent exposure altogether, unless this is not reasonably practicable. If prevention is not reasonably practicable, the secondary duty is ‘adequately’ to control the exposure, without reference to reasonableness. The only relevant factors are the nature of the substance and the nature and degree of exposure generally.
If you develop an allergic condition from an irritant used in your workplace, make sure your employer is aware of the problem. If your employer fails to take appropriate action, you may be entitled to compensation.