Unite Legal Services has secured compensation for a former factory worker after exposure to silica dust at work caused him to develop breathing and respiratory problems.
The Unite member began work in 1954 and spent 38 years working as a moulder. Until the 1980's he worked for one engineering company in Peterborough where he was exposed to silica dust which when inhaled causes an inflammatory reaction in the lungs.
For more than 10 years, his employer didn't provide any personal protective equipment to prevent him from breathing in the dust.
He later worked for two other engineering firms in Norfolk during the 1980s and 1990s, where he was also exposed to silica dust.
After taking early retirement, the Unite member started to suffer from coughing fits and breathing problems. He was referred to a specialist to have a biopsy on his lungs, which confirmed that he had developed respiratory problems caused by silica dust.
Following his diagnosis, he contacted Unite Legal Services to investigate a compensation claim on his behalf.
The member was awarded a settlement on a provisional damages basis so that his case could be reopened if he suffers serious deterioration in the future
The retired member said: “For years I worked with sand, but was never made aware that it could damage my lungs. Even when we were given protective equipment, it was of poor quality and did little to stop me breathing in the dust.
“I’ve been given tablets by my doctor to help ease the pain from coughing, but I still struggle with my breathing and I’ve been told that there’s a chance my condition may deteriorate in the future. Thankfully my union gave me access to legal support, which meant I could fight for compensation. It’s good to know that I can re-open my case if my health does get worse because of the silica dust.”
Peter Kavanagh, London and Eastern regional secretary at Unite the Union, said: “The dangers of working with silica dust are widely known and anyone coming into contact with the material should be provided with protective equipment. Due to the negligence of his employers our member was exposed throughout much of his career, and decades on he is suffering the damage it has done to his health.
“Silica dust is associated with heavy industry and is found in certain types of rock, sand, stone and clay. We would advise any of our members who have worked with silica dust and have been diagnosed with fibrosis of the lungs to contact Unite Legal Services for free, specialist advice.”