Can I claim compensation for toxic gas exposure in a factory after breathing in hydrogen sulphide gas? I am required to work with the gas in the laboratory in our factory and I am now suffering from persistent bronchitis.

Eoin P. Campbell, LL.B., Solicitor

Editor in Chief

Eoin P. Campbell

Question:

Can I claim compensation for toxic gas exposure in a factory after breathing in hydrogen sulphide gas? I am required to work with the gas in the laboratory in our factory and I am now suffering from persistent bronchitis.

Answer:

In order to make a claim for compensation for toxic gas exposure in a factory you must be able to prove that your chronic bronchitis was caused by exposure to toxic gas in the workplace. You must also be able to demonstrate that your employer has been negligent by action or inaction and has failed in a duty of care to protect you from harm.

You must also have sought medical attention for your bronchitis and had your injury diagnosed and treated by a doctor. A report also needs to be made in your employer’s accident book to support your claim for compensation for toxic gas exposure in a factory, even if a single accident did not cause your injury. Since it is likely that your condition has developed over a long period of time, an accident book report will need to be made as soon as you suspect that your bronchitis has been caused by exposure to toxic gas in the workplace.

The use of chemicals in the workplace is governed by strict legislation to ensure that workers are not placed at an excessive risk of sustaining an injury. Your employer should have conducted regular risk assessments and ensured that all Health and Safety Authority guidelines were followed. Protective clothing should have been provided if you are required to work with chemicals, which should also have included gas masks or breathing equipment if there was a high risk of inhalation of toxic gasses.

To reduce the risks to workers, any section of the workplace where gasses are used or are likely to accumulate are properly ventilated to limit the risk of inhalation. Failure to provide a safe working environment and take appropriate measures to reduce risks to staff constitutes a breach in health and safety regulations under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act (2005) and will be grounds for making a toxic gas injury claim.

However, a claim for compensation for toxic gas exposure in factory cannot be made if your employer had fulfilled his responsibilities and took all practical steps to reduce the risk of injury to the staff. If breathing equipment was provided and you chose not to wear it or if you were primarily responsible for your condition developing, your employer cannot be held accountable for your injuries. If an employee disregards health and safety procedures and suffers an injury as a direct result, a claim for compensation for toxic gas exposure in a factory will not be possible. This does not mean that you must be totally free from blame in order to be eligible to claim compensation for toxic gas exposure in a factory, only that a third party must be deemed to have been primarily responsible for your injuries.

Since eligibility to claim compensation for toxic gas exposure in a factory can be affected by many factors, you should have your claim properly assessed by a personal injury solicitor at the first practical opportunity.