Industrial Disease Respiratory Issues Claim

Respiratory Issues Claim
Bachelor of Laws - LLB Hayley McBride
Case by: Bachelor of Laws - LLB Hayley McBride

AWH Solicitor’s expert, Industrial Disease Solicitor, Hayley McBride, has recently settled a case concerning our client’s respiratory issues claim.

Background of the Respiratory Issues Claim

Our client worked as a Production Operative and later as a Team Leader for the defendant at their premises in Newport, starting from October 2003 until the present. During this period, our client was involved in the dismantling of fridges and freezers on the production lines, which exposed him to hazardous substances.

Work Details

The first stage of the process was to cut the cables and remove all the parts from the fridge like the glass shelves and compartments. The second stage was to crimp and remove the pipes to the fridge. The third phase involved using hydraulic cutters to cut out the motor and the fourth and final phase involved removing the gas from the motor.

Our client worked on all stages throughout his shift. Whilst the majority of time was spent on the line he also carried out other tasks including driving a forklift truck to empty bins from the process line. These bins contained the parts removed from the fridge/freezers. He also drove a clamp truck to load the line with the fridges which were then being dismantled.

Around 2005, our client’s role changed and he became a Team Leader supervising between 12-20 people depending on the shift. He worked mainly on the consol on both production lines. The 2 lines carried out the same work of dismantling various fridges/freezers. The console was a computerised screen which showed the work being carried out on the conveyor belts and he was able to oversee the production work from this vantage point and the staff working on each line. If the lines were fully staffed this would involve around 4 workers on each line.

The consul was positioned next to the infeed conveyor belt. The infeed conveyor belt including the consul is enclosed. The base of the infeed conveyor is open as the fridge/freezers are placed on the line at this point. There are hatches which can be opened above the line but when our client tried to open these to provide ventilation he was advised by management they needed to be kept shut.

Pressure to Comply with Customer Orders

There is pressure to comply with customer orders and large fridges/freezers would be dismantled at a rate of around 40-50 an hour with smaller fridges/freezers dismantled at 60-70 per hour.

Additionally, the production line contains a Morgensen Machine on each line which separates the foam from other materials including metals and plastics. There was extraction on this machine but this did not work effectively.

Our client was also required to maintain the equipment including the metal chains which are used to crush the fridge/freezers after the parts are removed. This process is at the end of the production line. This maintenance is required as and when there are any problems with the equipment and during periods of overtime would be carried out on a Saturday when the line is not in operation. It takes around an hour to change the chains.

There are 3 shifts from 6 am to 2 pm, 2 pm to 10 pm and from 10 pm to 6 am between Monday and Friday. Our client worked a rotational shift working one week on each shift. There are 2 breaks of 10 minutes and a 30-minute break halfway through the shift. Overtime is carried out every 3rd week on a Saturday for around 6 hours.

During overtime, our client would additionally have to carry out maintenance to empty the buffer which contained oversize ferrous and non-ferrous metal, plastic and foam. He would also check the small and large filters in the Morgansen Machine and clean these and clear/clean out 2 X dust filters which are on Fridge Plant 1 and 2

Health Hazards and Complaints

The defendant’s premises were consistently dusty, especially around the conveyor belt and Morgensen Machine. Dust levels increased over the last 2-3 years due to machine leaks covered with duct tape. Our client was exposed to various chemicals and irritants, including polyurethane, pentane, and cyclopentane from insulation, refrigerants in motor grills, and nitrogen used to cool the chains during crushing. Complaints about leaks and breathing difficulties were made to Line Managers, but no action was taken. Other staff members also complained about dust-related issues.

Safety Measures and Training

Dust masks in the form of paper masks which were elasticated to cover the nose and mouth were available occasionally in the last 10 years. The Claimant wore these when they were available but they were ineffective as they quickly became dirty and steamed up the safety glasses which were worn with them. He asked for different types of masks and was informed by management masks were not required for this work. For the last 18 months, he has used a cloth bandana to wear around his nose and mouth to try to obtain some protection from the airborne dust and chemicals. He wears a paper dust mask if this is available.

Additionally, he was not provided with any training in relation to substances hazardous to health and he is unaware of any relevant risk assessments being undertaken in respect of the risk of experiencing symptoms from undertaking work in which he is exposed to chemicals.

The client was never given any warnings with regard to the risk of sustaining symptoms from exposure to substances hazardous to health.

He was not provided with any adequate health surveillance testing for respiratory symptoms regularly and no job rotation was introduced.

The client had no prior respiratory problems before working for the defendant. Now the client has suffered shortness of breath for the last 12-18 months. He struggles to walk up inclines and is quickly out of breath when riding his bike.

Legal Proceedings and Settlement of the Respiratory Issues Claim

A case was pursued on behalf of our client for industrial disease compensation. Medical evidence supported the prognosis, and Hayley McBride, the Solicitor, handled the case throughout. After negotiations, a settlement was reached.

Conclusion of Our Client’s Respiratory Issues Claim

The defendant’s failure to address leaks and provide adequate safety measures contributed to our client’s health issues. Through legal representation, our client received compensation for the damages suffered as a result of the industrial disease caused by the defendant’s negligence.

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