Unite secures damages for member exposed to dangerous chemical fumes

An assembly worker has been compensated after he was exposed to dangerous fumes at work, which aggravated a long dormant asthmatic condition.

The 59-year-old Unite member was working on an assembly line at a car manufacturer in Solihull, when he became aware of a strong smell. As his colleagues tried to find out what was causing the smell, the member started to feel light-headed and breathless and collapsed onto the concrete floor.

It was later found that the smell was caused by chemical fumes created by the work of an independent contractor in an adjacent section of the building.

The member was given oxygen by first aiders but when his condition didn’t improve, he was rushed to a hospital respiratory clinic. Doctors identified that the exposure to the chemical fumes had aggravated childhood asthma, which had not affected his health since he was 10 years old.

For several days after the incident the member suffered from nausea and migraines, and months later continues to find physical activity difficult because of tightness in his chest.

Following the incident, he contacted Unite Legal Services to investigate a compensation claim on his behalf.

He said: “The smell of the chemical was like white spirit, it was sickening. Before this happened I cycled to work and loved it, but now it is a chore because of my condition.

“Even though the chemical was quickly removed from the site, the damage to my health was done. If the chemical was known to be so dangerous then there’s really no excuse to not forewarn people who are working in and around it.”

Des Quinn, Unite deputy regional secretary and regional coordinating officer, said: “The chemical was labelled as being an irritant but the contractors didn’t consider the risk to other people around them. What’s more, his employer didn’t make sure the contractor operated safe systems of work; a simple risk assessment would have identified the harm posed and its failure has caused our member’s dormant asthmatic condition to flare up, impacting his day-to-day life.

“By contacting Unite Legal Services, our member received 100% of the compensation secured for him and is safe in the knowledge that his negligent employer has been held to account.”