Laboratory accidents: hazardous chemicals

Electric shocks can be devastating

The presence of hazardous chemicals makes laboratories a dangerous place to be. Often of a corrosive nature and/or highly toxic, such chemicals can cause all sorts of working accidents leading to personal injuries, from explosions and chemical burns caused by splashes or spills to severe allergic reactions to organic materials.

Hazardous chemicals and accidents at work

While allergic reactions and their severity partially depend on the individual affected (some people are more prone to such reactions than others), work accidents involving corrosive materials will affect everyone in the same manner. On contact with eyes or skin, the chemical reacts with the structure, cells and molecules of the skin and eyes, and subsequently modifies or destroys them either partially or completely.

Acids likely to cause injuries at work

Careless handling resulting in splashing of acids onto skin or into the eyes, or spills of the same left unattended, for example, account for a great deal of workrelated injuries in laboratories. Inorganic acids likely to cause chemical burns include, for example:

  • Sulphuric acid;
  • Phosphoric acid;
  • Perchloric acid;
  • Nitric acid;
  • Hydrofluoric acid;
  • Hydrochloric acid; and
  • Chromic acid.

Organic acids prone to cause similar effects consist predominantly of:

  • Trichloroacetic acid;
  • Salicylic acid;
  • Phenol;
  • Oxalic acid;
  • Glacial acetic acid;
  • Formic acid; and
  • Butyric acid.

Oxidising agents and inorganic bases

Many other industrial injuries occurring in laboratories are the result of incidents involving inorganic bases like:

  • Sodium hydroxide;
  • Potassium hydroxide;
  • Calcium oxide;
  • Calcium hydroxide; and
  • Ammonium hydroxide.

Oxidising agents are also often responsible for more or less severe chemical burns. Here, substances responsible for injuries at work may consist of:

  • Perchloric acid;
  • Nitric acid;
  • Fluorine;
  • Chromic acid;
  • Chlorine; and
  • Bromine.

Other materials likely to cause workplace injuries include compounds like tin chloride, potassium chromate, phosphorus pentoxide and phosphorous trichloride. In addition to their corrosive nature, many of these chemicals are also highly toxic and, unless injuries are dealt with and treated immediately, may cause delayed and often severe effects.

Claiming industrial injury compensation

If you were injured no more than three years ago in a laboratory accident due to the fault of another person, you may be eligible for work injury compensation. No win no fee* claims can be initiated easily by calling Accident Advice Helpline, a law firm with years of experience in dealing with personal injury claims, on 0800 689 0500.

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