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Industrial Disease experts at Irwin Mitchell have secured an undisclosed settlement for a 67 year-old man who developed lung disease after more than 50 years working as a stonemason.
Derek Bennet, from Bristol, began his working life in 1965 as an apprentice stonemason at Canterbury company John E Wiltshier before moving to Maurice V Sheppard Ltd and CDL Stone Restoration, both based in Bristol.
Throughout his career Derek was never advised about the dangers of crystalline silica dust, and never told to wear a mask and overalls. Silica is a naturally occurring compound found in certain types of stone, brick, sand and clay that, when worked on with industrial tools, creates a very fine dust that’s easily inhaled.
Once inside the lungs, the particles of dust come under attack from the immune system, leading to inflammation and scarring, causing the lungs to partially lose function. It wasn’t until 2012 that Derek became aware of what had happened to him when he started struggling to catch his breath and coughing continuously.
It’s now likely that Derek will see a continued deterioration in his respiratory ability for the rest of his life as well as an increased risk of lung cancer and tuberculosis. He got in touch with our industrial disease experts after finding out that his condition could have been prevented had he been issued with overalls and a facemask.
We argued that Derek’s former employers were made aware of the risks of exposure to silica dust by the Factories Act 1961, which passed four years before Derek began his career. Although the companies refused to admit any liability, they did settle with him out of court for an undisclosed amount.
Derek said: “I was just a boy when I started work and no one ever told me the risks of silica. I never had a mask or overalls. I used to just finish up work for the day, dust myself off a bit and go home still covered in dust. Although I was later advised of the dangers of not using masks/overalls this was long after I had decided to buy my own protection and advise younger colleagues of the need to protect themselves.
“Before that I carried on working in extremely dusty environments across the four companies completely unaware of the fact that I was still being exposed to crystalline silica dust. It wasn’t until 2012 when I started struggling to catch my breath and coughing that I became aware of what was happening day in day out while I was at work. While nothing can turn back the clock now, I’m glad it is settled so I can try and make the most of my life with my family.”
Alex Shorey, the solicitor who handled the case, said: “Derek was regularly exposed to high levels of respirable crystalline silica dust due to the use of power tools and working with stone. Occupational lung diseases have a devastating effect on lives and more regulation and enforcements of such law needs to be put in place. Employers and employees are still not aware of how to protect themselves from the dangers of silica dust and developing this devastating disease.
“I represent people whose lives have been shortened by the disease and even though we are able to recover compensation for loss of earnings and the cost of care, when we can never turn back the clock and heal them. The settlement of this case will hopefully give Derek and his family some financial security and help fund his future care as they continue to come to terms with his ailing health.”
If you or a loved one has suffered from respiratory problems, such as occupational asthma or silicosis caused by conditions at work, our solicitors could help you claim compensation. See our Industrial Disease Claims page for more information.
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