Jobcentre employees receive compensation for exposure to noxious fumes13 April 2011
Exposed to chemicals at work
Thompsons Solicitors has secured £12,600 compensation for eight PCS members after they were exposed to a potentially lethal chemical at work.
The Jobcentre Plus workers based in Kings House, Harrow suffered from nausea, headaches and generally felt unwell for several months after they were exposed to toxic fumes from a chemical spill on the pavement outside a window of the office.
Contractors carrying out work for the London Borough of Harrow spilled Resiblock Ultra Matt, a type of paving sealant, which contained Xylene. Xylene can cause death on exposure to very high levels but in smaller doses those exposed experience loss of balance, nausea, headaches and confusion.
The toxic fumes leaked into the Jobcentre offices and the PCS members suffered from symptoms of exposure for several months. Fortunately there was no long term damage.
Thompsons Solicitors made claim for compensation
When the members were told that their health problems were caused by the fumes they contacted their trade union for advice. The PCS instructed Thompsons Solicitors to pursue a claim for compensation against both the employer The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and the London Borough of Harrow.
Neither organisation admitted liability but they agreed to settle the claim out of court.
Robert Lemon from Thompsons Solicitors said: "These eight Jobcentre Plus workers were unwell for months after being exposed to a highly toxic chemical.
“The employer failed to act despite complaints about the strong smell of fumes and the Council failed to make sure surrounding businesses and organisations were aware of the spill so they could take the necessary steps to safeguard their employees."
Carl Banks, PCS health and safety officer, said: “We are delighted these members have been compensated for the failure of both the DWP and the Council to take this chemical spill seriously. Our members spent weeks wondering what was wrong with them before finally finding out that they were suffering from the side effects of exposure to noxious chemicals. The experience of these members shows how misguided the government is to accept and seek to legislate to impose Lord Young’s view that offices are low risk workplaces needing a lesser form of risk assessment.”
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