In a case of crucial importance to anyone whose work brings them into contact with potentially harmful substances, five chemical industry employees who developed an allergy to aluminium salts have had their compensation hopes dashed after the High Court ruled that they had not suffered any ‘actionable injury’.

The men claimed that exposure to complex halogenated salts had brought on their sensitivity to those substances, and their employer conceded that it had breached health and safety and hazardous substance regulations. The men argued that the sensitivity they had developed would, if they continued to be exposed to the aluminium salts, progress to become an allergic reaction. In order to avoid this happening, they had to be redeployed to work that did not involve contact with the salts and this had seriously affected their earning capacity.

In dismissing their claims, however, the Court found that they had suffered no injury for which the law could compensate them and that their loss was ‘purely economic’. Their sensitisation to aluminium salts was a result of the presence of antibodies in their systems which were not harmful in themselves.

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