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HSE: Allergic reaction at work

What happened

The UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have fined a company over £100,000 after an employee developed an allergic form of dermatitis after coming into contact with metalworking fluids. See here for press release.

Our members’ operations may make use of potentially hazardous substances, so this may be of interest.

An employee was splashed on the face and upper body with metalworking fluid whilst cleaning out a grinding machine. As a result of the contact the employee had an allergic reaction, consisting of a very painful burning sensation, inflamed, broken and oozing skin, and was diagnosed with allergic contact dermatitis. This was a permanent allergy, which meant that even small quantities of this substance could result in a further serious reaction. The employee received medical advice that they could no longer continue in their job as it was a risk to their health.  

What went wrong?

The company had:

  • Failed to carry out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment to identify the potential for exposure to the hazardous chemicals;
  • Not implemented the necessary controls to prevent skin contact. This was particularly important in this case as the company was already aware (IMCA italics) the employee had a history of dermatitis.

The HSE inspector noted that “Dermal risks from metalworking fluids are well known within industry and there are simple and effective controls available to prevent contact with the skin. This serious health condition could have been prevented if the company had carried out the required risk assessment and implemented the necessary control measures, including suitable personal protective equipment, particularly gloves. All of these risks and controls are described in HSE and industry guidance, which is widely available.”

Members may wish to review:

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