Chemical exposure leads worker to develop occupational asthma

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Chemical exposure leads worker to develop occupational asthma

11th September 2012

A Folkestone man who developed occupational asthma after he was exposed to harmful chemicals during the course of his previous employment has received £30,000 in an out of court settlement.

Nick Greaves, an industrial disease specialist at Fentons Solicitors LLP, said his client - an assembly line operator for a car-parts factory - was never offered any type of personal protective equipment which could have helped prevent his exposure.

“My client’s job involved operating a ‘moulding gun’ in the production of car armrests, said Nick, a solicitor with the firm. “The moulding gun was suspended from the ceiling of the factory by a tube and my client was responsible for directing a chemical foam substance through the tube into an empty cast in the shape of a car armrest.

“The chemical foam substance my client used in the process emitted both fumes as well as a strong chemical odour,” added Nick, “and although there was a single large extraction fan at the back of the room, it was at the opposite end to where he worked.

“On the day of the incident my client started his shift at 6am,” said Nick. “During the course of the morning, a supervisor changed the setting on the moulding gun to prevent it from becoming blocked. This resulted in a blast of air being given off every time the trigger was pulled and within minutes of the change, my client started struggling to breathe and began experiencing acute chest pains.”

When his symptoms suddenly deteriorated, the claimant - who is in his 40s - was rushed by ambulance to hospital and given oxygen. However, after undergoing blood tests, doctors were unable to determine what was causing the symptoms and he was discharged the same day.

When he went back to work the following day, his symptoms returned as soon as he was able to smell the chemical foam substance used in the moulding process and he was signed off work as a result. Upon his return a week later, he was transferred to other duties in another part of the factory away from the chemicals and his employers began providing basic breathing protection to those continuing to work with the substance.

“Over the next few months, my client underwent a number of tests and x-rays before he was eventually diagnosed with occupational asthma and informed he was allergic to a chemical used in the factory known as ‘isocyanate,’” said Nick. “During this time, his breathing became increasingly laboured and he continued to suffer frequent chest pains despite being moved to another part of the factory.

“My client has now been assessed as being 20 per cent disabled and was awarded Industrial Injuries Disablement benefit as a result,” added Nick. “His breathing has not been the same since his asthma attack and although he has now changed jobs and his symptoms have finally begun to settle, he is currently required to use an inhaler - something he never needed in the past.”

After liability was admitted, Nick settled the claim on behalf of his client in July 2012.

How can Fentons Solicitors help?

Fentons has a specialist department experienced in handling claims for victims of industrial diseases.

If you think that you have a case or require further information contact Fentons on 0800 0191 297 or fill in the online claims questionnaire