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Accidents involving asphyxiation are relatively rare, but when they do occur they are extremely serious. Asphyxiation is characterised by lack of oxygen and, if not dealt with rapidly, can quickly lead to brain injury or even death.

Compressive asphyxia is a type of asphyxiation caused by compression of the chest, which means that the lungs are unable to fill with oxygen, ultimately meaning that the person affected is unable to breathe. One tragic example of this is the Hillsborough disaster of 1989, in which scores of fans were asphyxiated as a result of the crush and press of the crowd.

In the workplace, the most common type of asphyxiation accident occurs when someone enters a confined space without realising that the atmosphere inside is dangerous – either because it contains poisonous gases or because the level of oxygen is dangerously low.

Agriculture and asphyxiation

Whether the cause of asphyxiation is gas or low oxygen level, the worker will have little warning before becoming unconscious. A typical example is a slurry pit on a working farm, where, even in open spaces, dangerous gases such as hydrogen sulphide can be released. Hydrogen sulphide can't be smelt is odourless and at high levels it disables the nervous system and causes collapse, unconsciousness and, ultimately, death.

'Slurry handling on farms is a dangerous process. The toxic gases released can quickly kill workers and livestock – even in the open air – and multiple fatalities can occur as attempts are made to rescue workers who have been overcome,' says the Health and Safety Executive.

This type of asphyxiation can also occur in places in which free-flowing solids, such as grain, are stored. Workers sent into clear a blockage can be trapped if the blockage suddenly clears and the material floods out on top of them.

An additional risk in all of these cases is that any rescuers are likely to be overcome in their turn.

Scotland's leading personal injury firm

Thompsons Solicitors is recognised as Scotland's leading personal injury firm. We have been nationally recognised for our excellence, win more than 90% of our cases and, each week obtain an average of more than £1 million in compensation for our clients.

With offices in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Peebles, Dumfries, Galashiels and the ability to travel to you, we are ideally situated to help you, wherever you are in the country.

If you or someone you love has been injured at work, you may be entitled to compensation. Give us a call on 0800 0891331, and one of our accident claims lawyers will talk you through your options, free of charge and with no obligation.

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