Metro train cleaner develops occupational dermatitis after being exposed to irritant cleaner

Unite member, Raymond, has received £15,000 in compensation after developing dermatitis from being exposed to an irritant cleaning product at work. 

Raymond worked for DB Regio Tyne and Wear Ltd cleaning Metro trains, where he would need to clean the chewing gum from the floors of the trains. 

In 2011, his employer introduced a new cleaning product which was particularly strong but he was only provided with domestic rubber gloves that covered his hands. 

The gloves were not effective protection against this particular cleaning product, and Raymond’s arms and legs would get splashed with the cleaning product.    

Shortly after the introduction of the cleaning product, Raymond began to suffer from rashes on his arms and legs. The symptoms became worse the more he was exposed to the product.

Raymond reported his symptoms to his employer and was seen by the occupational health department on a number of occasions.  However, no proper attempts were made to ensure that he was not exposed to the product. Even when he stopped working with it himself there were other people spraying the product all over the trains where he was working.  

Raymond had reached retirement age in 2014 but he was fit and healthy apart from his dermatitis; he wanted to continue working. Unfortunately, the dermatitis was causing him too much discomfort and he ended up giving up work at the beginning of 2016. 

Unite Legal Services made the claim for compensation for Raymond and he received £15,000. As a result of his Unite membership, Raymond received 100% of his compensation and did not have to pay anything towards legal costs.   

Raymond said: “I received a letter from Unite telling me about Unite Legal Services and it prompted me to seek legal advice about my skin problems. I am so glad that I did as I then discovered that I had occupational dermatitis and I now have compensation. 

“It was with the help of Unite Legal Services that I was seen by a consultant dermatologist who was able to confirm that I was suffering from occupational dermatitis. We had to start court proceedings because to begin with my employer was not prepared to pay me any compensation. It was trying to argue it was not the cleaning product that had caused my skin condition. 

“Unite Legal Services fought for me every step of the way and got me the compensation I deserved."

Karen Reay, North East, Yorkshire and Humberside regional secretary at Unite the Union, said: “Employers are under a duty to ensure their employees are kept safe whilst working, unfortunately sometimes this does not happen and despite complaints, employee’s concerns can be ignored. Raymond was able to get expert legal advice, medical treatment and compensation with the support of Unite Legal Services.”