A father of two who suffered a severe skin condition after being exposed to chemicals at work, leaving him unable to continue in his job, is raising awareness of the importance of health and safety in the workplace by speaking out about his ordeal.
Former water chemist John Lewis, from Atherstone in Warwickshire, contracted dermatitis – irritation of the skin across his body – after working for Aquatech Environmental Services Ltd for 10 months from May 2009, where he tested water cooling systems for dangerous bacteria.
The 55 year old instructed industrial illness experts at law firm Irwin Mitchell to help him in a battle for justice after he wasn’t provided with the appropriate protective clothing. Lawyers at the firm have now secured Mr Lewis £20,000 in damages.
John used a number of different chemicals during his work, including biocides and inhibitors which were used to control Legionella bacteria. However, he wasn’t provided with plastic boots, a face shield, breathing apparatus, safety goggles or chemical resistant PVC clothing and wasn’t warned about the risk of dermatitis or other skin conditions.
Satinder Bains, an industrial illness expert at Irwin Mitchell’s Birmingham office representing John, said: “Dermatitis is a nasty skin condition that is caused by direct contact with a chemical or strong substance. If not treated, the skin can become infected and sufferers can be left with permanent scarring.
“It left areas of John’s body very dry and blistered which he needed treatment for. This condition could have very easily been prevented had John been given the appropriate protective clothing and equipment but his employers failed to provide this. Lessons must now be learnt to ensure this can’t happen again.
“He is now left unable to pursue his career due to the risk of the dermatitis returning which he has understandably found hard to come to terms with. We hope the settlement draws a line under his ordeal and he can now look to the future and concentrate on pursuing a new career.”
John first began suffering symptoms in October 2009 which became severe over the winter months when he had to work outside in snowy and wet conditions. He had red blotchy, itchy rashes on several areas of his body and suffered from lesions of the skin under his wrist watch strap.
His hands became swollen, he had redness and blistering under his wedding ring and watch strap. He also experienced puffiness and redness of his eyes and facial rashes.
John said: “I was in a lot of pain and it was very uncomfortable but the cold weather conditions I had to work in made it ten times worse.
“I was never warned of the risks the chemicals posed to my skin or given any protective clothing which makes what happened harder to come to terms with because it could have so easily been prevented. Now, I have to find a new career which is something I never anticipated at this point in my life.
“I just hope what happened to me acts as a reminder to all companies working with chemicals about the importance of protecting staff and following health and safety guidelines.”
Commenting at the conclusion of the case, Satinder said: “Workers must be aware that there are strict time limits in place relevant to bringing a claim of this kind. It is important where a person suspects that that they have developed a work related condition, that they seek specialist legal advice as soon as possible.”
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