A former sanitation worker´s claim for an eye injury due to chemical exposure has been resolved at a hearing of the Court of Common Pleas in Philadelphia.
Joseph Keith Jr. was working as a sanitation worker for Hatfield Quality Meats in Hatfield, PA., when he was splashed by sodium hydroxide while wrapping a hose that he had previously used to clean the facility.
According to Joseph´s claim for an eye injury due to chemical exposure, the hose struck him in the face as he was wrapping it and knocked off his protective glasses. The chemical had dripped into his right eye, burned the side of his face and his right ear.
Due to being unable to reach an eyewash station for ten minutes, Joseph is now blind in his right eye, has a permanent facial disfigurement and is partially deaf in his right ear. He claimed that his injuries would have been minimal and recoverable had he been able to access an eyewash station quicker.
Hatfield Quality Meats contested Joseph´s claim for an eye injury due to chemical exposure. The company argued that OSHA safety officials inspected the plant on a quarterly basis and questioned whether Joseph had been properly wearing his safety goggles at the time.
The claim for an eye injury due to chemical exposure went to the Court of Common Pleas in Philadelphia, where it was heard by a jury before Judge Mary Colins. At the hearing, the jury was told that the nearest eyewash stations were 155 feet and 210 feet away, rather than being within fifty feet of where exposure to chemicals was possible.
Joseph´s lawyer argued that his employer had failed to follow safety rules, but Hatfield Quality Meats argued that Joseph should have known where the nearest eyewash station was before working with chemicals that presented the risk of injury. The company claimed that Joseph´s level of injury was exacerbated by his own comparative negligence.
After nearly two weeks of testimony, the jury found in Joseph´s favor. It awarded him $1.8 million compensation in settlement of his claim for an eye injury due to chemical exposure, but reduced the award by 13 percent to account for his contribution to the extent of his injury.