Member suffers dermatitis following exposure to irritants at work

A Unite member who developed a painful skin condition from exposure to irritants at work has received compensation with help from the union's legal service.

The 49-year-old from Birmingham developed dermatitis after he was exposed to excessive oil when working at a taxi manufacturer.

He spent most of his time working on a press, which was known for leaking oil into the press bed. His role involved applying pins in the press bed and as a result his hand was covered in oil for most of his shifts.

He worked for years in these conditions but things deteriorated when he had to work the press on his own. He asked for specialist Kevlar gloves, which were supplied, but they needed to be replaced regularly.

His employer refused to provide replacement gloves because they were so expensive.

As a result, he started to develop red and itchy hands which began to crack and become extremely painful. He was given with steroid cream by his GP and told that his condition was caused by his work.

He was then moved to another job as a forklift truck driver where he is no longer in contact with the oil. His hands have cleared up but if he comes in contact with irritants his condition flares up.

He contacted Unite Legal Services to investigate a claim for compensation, who went on to secure £10,000 in damages.

The member said: “My hands have more or less cleared up now but every so often I still get a reaction. They become red and itchy and painful but I find it embarrassing more than anything as my hands are covered in large cracks and people ask me about it. I asked on several occasions for more Kevlar gloves but was told that they were too expensive. It seemed to me that saving a few pounds on gloves was more important than my health.”

Peter Coulson, from Unite the Union, said: “This case highlights the importance of employers providing employees with the correct protective equipment to keep them safe in their jobs. With a regular supply of fit for purpose gloves this member would never have developed this skin condition. Additionally a system of job rotation would have further reduced his exposure to the oil.

“This is a success for Unite Legal Services and all our members should take some comfort from knowing that our legal services are at hand to act for members and their families.”