In focus: Chemical leak at the O2 in 2007

Blood sample for ammonia test
Contact with ammonia either through inhalation or direct contact can cause serious harm.

At 20:45 GMT on the 29th October 2007, emergency services were called to the O2 in London after a chemical leak hospitalised over 30 members of staff. No members of the public were injured.

An accident at work; what happened with this chemical leak?

Staff members were dismantling stage equipment, when Ammonia leaked from an ice rink plant room and travelled through the ventilation system, causing those affected to suffer from a variety of symptoms from runny noses to itchy eyes and extreme irritation and discomfort.

The London Ambulance service dispatched 10 appliances to the scene along with a duty station officer and hazard response team.

Staff and emergency services at the O2 were thankfully able to evacuate the premises almost immediately and significantly reduce the chances of any further injuries from the chemical leak.

The case highlights the importance of, and need for, preparation and proper risk assessment procedure in any work environment. Without having a coherent evacuation plan and proper medical services, the injuries suffered by staff members could have been more severe.

What is Ammonia?

Ammonia is a powerful alkali with various industrial uses including the production and manufacturing of fertiliser, as well as ice rinks and food storage. Its chemical structure makes it an excellent refrigerant and it has been used as a refrigerant since the 1850s.

However, due to the chemical properties of Ammonia, contact either through inhalation or direct contact with the skin can lead to a plethora of nasty symptoms and hazards and is a serious cause of work-related injury. Anyone who has accidentally inhaled Ammonia may suffer from Rhinorrhea, Dyspnea, chest tightness, difficulty breathing and eye irritation; however, most symptoms will subside within 24-48 hours. Direct contact with the skin can lead to serious burns.

In the case of contact with Ammonia, medical attention should be sought immediately, although it should be noted in the case of the O2 incident, staff were merely hospitalised as a precautionary measure and matter of due course after the reporting of symptoms related to contact with Ammonia.

I’ve suffered injuries as a result of being in contact with Ammonia in my workplace, might I be able to seek work-accident compensation?

Accident Advice Helpline is a law firm with over 13 years’ experience in work-related injuries and accidents in the workplace. If you’ve suffered injuries as the result of contact with Ammonia within the last 3 years and it wasn’t your fault, then yes, you may be entitled to claim compensation. To discuss your potential claim with a member of our expert team dial 0800 689 0500 now.

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