Thursday, April 14, 2011

Jobcentre workers exposed to Xylene fumes

Xylene is a dangerous chemical that can
cause serious health problems when fumes
are inhaled.
Eight employees at a Jobcentre in Harrow are receiving compensation after they were left exposed to potential lethal fumes following a toxic chemical spill.

The Jobcentre Plus workers, based in Kings House, in Harrow town centre, suffered from nausea and headaches for months after the spill on the pavement outside the offices last year.

Contractors carrying out work for Harrow Council spilled Resiblock Ultra Matt, a type of paving sealant, which contained Xylene, a potent chemical which can cause death on exposure to very high levels.

In smaller doses, exposure to Xylene can cause loss of balance, nausea, headaches and confusion leading to the staff members seeking advice from the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS).

They contacted Thompsons Solicitors who secured the £12,600 compensation, which has been split between the workers. The cash was forked out by Harrow Council and The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), who both rejected liability but agreed to settle 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."

It is thought that members of the public would have been exposed to the fumes too but that symptoms only occur after enclosed, prolonged exposure.

Carl Banks, PCS health and safety officer, added: “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.”

Source: David Baker, Harrow Observer 

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RAP Series: Industrial-strength air
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