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Our Industrial Illness team secured almost £40,000 in compensation for a cleaner from Staffordshire who was left with painful and debilitating dermatitis after being exposed to a toxic industrial solvent.
In March 2010 Susan Davies began work as part of a team of 10 completing industrial cleaning jobs on new builds. Although Mrs Davies was a new starter, she received no formal training, and wasn’t issued with any kind of protective clothing. Susan did initially try and bring this up with her manager but he dismissed it, telling her it had “never hurt him”.
Shortly after, in 2011, Mrs Davies began experiencing the first onset of contact dermatitis, giving her with exceptionally painful cracked and blistered skin on her hands and leaving her unable to complete even basic household tasks. After being diagnosed with dermatitis and ordered to take time off work by her GP, Susan’s condition appeared to improve enough to return to work. However, in 2013, her dermatitis returned in a much more serious outbreak, despite her attempts to limit contact with the solvent by wearing her own marigold gloves with cotton gloves underneath.
Despite her attempts, the dermatitis returned in 2013, this time in a much more serious outbreak. In the following year she tried to bring the issue up a final time and was flatly told that she "would have to live with it".
Susan contacted our Industrial Disease and Illness team to see if we could help her get compensation from her now former employer.
Dr P August, a consultant dermatologist, determined that the dermatitis was caused by prolonged exposure to the solvent and that it was unlikely to heal if she continued in her current line of work.
We also consulted a Mr Purnell, an occupational hygienist, who confirmed that the exposure was entirely foreseeable and that Mrs Davies' employer should have ensured that suitable tools and protective clothing were provided.
We secured Susan a settlement of £37,500 in damages for the lasting skin damage she suffered to her hands.
She was forced to change career as a result now works as a carer but, even though she no longer works with the solvent, she still suffers from the effects of contact dermatitis on her hands.
"The skin on my hands regularly cracks and bleeds and I have been forced to wear gloves around my own home to prevent me coming into contact with chemicals that now cause me irritation. I have to use steroid cream and if I don't apply the cream regularly then it goes downhill fast so I have to keep on top of it for the rest of my life. It affects a lot of my life because at times there are things that I just can't do. With it being my hands, I don't think people realise how much you use them without realising. Even if I touch something like a leather sofa that can set them off and make the cracks bad. If I don't take care of them every day then it gets back again very quickly. Thankfully I have now been awarded a settlement that offers me some stability given the impact my condition has had on my job prospects."
Alex Shorey, an expert industrial disease lawyer, represented Susan in her claim. Speaking about Susan's case he said: "Skin conditions such as contact dermatitis can be caused by regular contact with harmful substances but they can be easily avoided if the correct precautions and safety measures are implemented. Sadly for Susan these measures were not taken by her employer and she has developed a serious condition that not only causes her a significant amount of pain but has had a long-term impact on her day-to-day life. We are delighted to have been able to secure her a settlement from her employer and hope that more will be done in the future to protect others for similar exposure to harmful substances. We hope the settlement will help Susan access the medication and treatment she will require to control the symptoms of her condition."
If you've developed an industrial disease or illness at work then please get in touch with our Industrial Disease and Illness team to find out if we can help put together a claim for you. Either fill out our contact form or call us on 0800 056 4110.
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