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Home > News > Nurse develops serious skin disease through exposure to chemicals in NHS Theatre

15th April 2013

Nurse develops serious skin disease through exposure to chemicals in NHS Theatre

An experienced senior nurse who has held responsible positions in hospitals in the UK and abroad, our client reluctantly sought our expert legal advice when she was unable to continue in her chosen field of nursing.

Although the NHS Trust accepted our client’s claim for her occupational disease, their insurers refused to negotiate an acceptable sum in compensation. We were forced to issue court proceedings but continued to enter into robust negotiations. We were successful in winning several thousand pounds in compensation prior to the trial date.

Skin disease as a result of allergic reactions

Our client had suffered three instances when her fingers and hands caused her pain and discomfort following a shift working in the theatre. Both our client and the Occupational Health professionals were at a loss to understand the cause as she always followed best practice procedures, such as wearing double layers of gloves and following correct procedures in handling chemicals in the medical environment. She had worked in the same medical field for many years without previous problems.

Symptoms of skin disease after exposures to allergens in the workplace

On the first occasion, following a shift in the NHS Theatre, our client noticed a bluish discolouration between the fingers of one hand, and these areas were very itchy. Her first fears were that it was a latex allergy but no tests were taken at this time and after a period of exclusion from work, (a normal procedure for medical staff in these circumstances) the symptoms subsided.

However, several weeks later, our client experienced a second and even more severe reaction, when in addition to the discolouration, one hand and several finger pads began to swell. By the next morning several blisters had formed and she noticed that it took very little pressure to cause others to develop.

Again she was excluded from work for several weeks to allow the symptoms to subside. On this occasion she underwent a patch test which showed that she was allergic to several substances but not latex.

Returning to work again, it was only a short time before she experienced a further and even more severe attack. In addition to her previous symptoms, her thumb became blistered and swollen.

Investigating skin diseases caused by allergens

As part of the investigations by the Occupational Health department to establish the cause of our client’s condition, she was asked about her work and any specific actions that might have exposed her to a harmful chemical. It was only at this point that she was able to make the connection between the 3 incidents and the use of a cement for routine medical procedures on each of the days she was affected.

Further investigation revealed that an allergen (Cobalt Chloride) to which she had shown a reaction during the patch test, were in fact contained in this cement.

The procedure for preparation of this cement is fairly straight-forward in itself, but a critical timing requirement necessitates control by a second person. This supported our client’s evidence that she had followed the correct procedure and her exposure had not occurred through any miss-handling of these chemicals.

Breach of regulations

The cement (PALACROS R+G) has been routinely used in prosthetic surgery, such as Cemented Hip Replacements, for several years. Instructions in the preparation of the cement are very specific as it needs to be kept sterile and care needs to be taken so that there is no exposure to the powder during its preparation.

However, no guidelines were enforced regarding the type of gloves to be worn during the preparation and our client had used those which were readily available in the department.

Two layers were mandatory as this was deemed to not only provided protection from the substance but by using different colours, allowed any tears or holes in the top layer to be easily visible.

Following our client’s first reaction, alternative gloves had been provided for her but these too had failed to protect her.

Our specialist occupational disease lawyers brought this claim against the NHS Trust on the basis that they had breached both the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations by not providing appropriate gloves for the specific task, and the COSHH Regulations (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health) which allowed our client to be exposed to harmful substances.

Making a claim for compensation for an occupational disease

Clear Answers’ specialist occupational disease lawyers are waiting to provide you with expert legal advice. We specialise in all types of personal injury compensation claims.

If you or a family member has been injured through no fault of your own, please ring us on 0800 783 9019 and speak to one of our advisers. They will be happy to answer any questions you may have, and to talk you through the claims process in plain English. Alternatively, please complete one of our online compensation claim forms and a representative will contact you as quickly as possible.

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