Peter turned to Unite Legal Services for legal guidance after workplace negligence caused him to suffer a worsening of an asthmatic condition and develop a back injury.
The 52-year-old, who already suffered with asthma, saw his condition deteriorate as a result of exposure to diesel fumes at a military airfield’s fire station. The station wasn’t ventilated, meaning diesel fumes from the trucks driving in and out would fill the area Peter worked in.
Peter said: “We really started to notice the issue around 2010. We tried to tell our employer by voicing our concerns about having to work in a toxic soup day in, day out, but our comments were held against us and we were warned that we would face sanctions if we continued to complain.”
The man also suffered back problems as a result of carrying goods weighing up to 50kg. His employer failed to provide lifting equipment for him to do this safely.
By the time the depot was inspected, his employer had fitted ‘local exhaust ventilation’, but it was argued this should have been done when the building was first developed in 2000. It transpired that the employer had only done this following an order from the Health and Safety Executive.
Peter added: “I feel the way we were treated by QinetiQ was draconian with management-led employee forums in place of proper union representation. In the end, I had to leave as my condition made work impossible and I didn’t think I would be able to afford to fight my former employer in court.
“For Unite Legal Services to give me the backing they did was a lifeline and a huge shock. They listened to my story and helped me ensure my employers were forced to acknowledge what their lack of care did to me. I couldn’t be more grateful.”
Stuart Davies, Unite regional legal officer in the South West, said: “We will always fight tooth and nail to improve working conditions across the UK, especially with those firms that take a ‘union-busting’ stance and terminate recognition of trade unions. Peter suffered for a number of years as a result of working conditions that were unacceptable and for too long his efforts to raise concerns about working conditions fell on deaf years.
“Peter’s situation is a unique and extreme example of employer negligence and Unite Legal Services ensured he received free legal support. We made certain that QinetiQ faced up to what they had done, which if they have any sense at all should lead to a positive change in the working environment for others still working at the airfield”.