Our industrial disease experts helped a former stone mason who had to retire at the age of 43 after his employers failed to keep him safe at work.
Our client, Gareth, began working in stone masonry at the age of 22. He originally trained as a plumber but there was little plumbing work available when he qualified. As part of a government scheme at the time, Gareth was able to get training in different line of work instead.
Gareth began working as a labourer at a stone merchant’s with the aim of working his way towards becoming a skilled stone mason. He’d stay in this industry for 15 years.
While working as a stone mason, the only protection Gareth wore was a paper dust mask. However, Gareth’s employers failed to make him aware that this protection was severely inadequate. Due to this poor protection, he regularly inhaled deadly silica dust created by stone grinding.
Silica occurs natural in stone, brick, sand, and clay. It’s easy for workers to inhale silica dust particles when finishing these materials with industrial tools. Inhaling these particles can cause long-term lung damage and even be fatal in some cases.
As well as his poor personal protective equipment, Gareth’s working conditions were also poorly ventilated. This meant the silica dust would linger around Gareth's work space, creating a dangerous workspace for him and his colleagues.
Gareth also never got adequate training on working with and around silica.
Moving on from Stonemasonry
After 15 years of working in poor conditions as a stone mason, Gareth then changed his line of work again. He trained to be a police officer specialising in mental health support and took on a voluntary role as a Police Special to gain experience.
Sadly, Gareth’s aspirations of qualifying to become an officer ended sooner than he expected. In 2017, he began to suffer with breathlessness. This breathlessness came as a shock to Gareth as he led an active lifestyle.
Gareth then underwent numerous tests at his local hospital, who diagnosed Gareth with silicosis. Silicosis is a disease which has a long lasting effect on the lungs. This news was devastating for Gareth as he became extremely limited in what he was able to do.
Gareth’s silicosis meant that he commonly experienced extreme tiredness. Gareth’s extreme fatigue and breathlessness prompted him to reduce his working hours.
Sadly, reducing his hours wasn’t enough, and Gareth's health was rapidly deteriorating. At the age of 43, Gareth stopped working. His silicosis was starting to have a drastic on many crucial aspects of his life. Gareth began to struggle to play with his two children and was finding a flight of stairs very difficult.
Helping Gareth Find Answers
Gareth contacted our Occupational Disease team to see how we could help him claim against his previous employers. Occupational Disease expert, David Johnston-Keay began working alongside Gareth. David, began by gaining a thorough understanding of Gareth’s employment history and his exposure to silica. He then consulted a respiratory consultant and a care expert.
After gaining this expert advice and opinion, David then began the claim. David and his team argued that Gareth’s previous employers were aware of the dangers and risk associated with silica dust. However, they still failed to provide Gareth and his colleagues with adequate training, protection or a ventilated workspace.
Six months later, Gareth’s previous employers admitted responsibility for his illness and made an offer to settle the claim before trial. David and his team were able to secure Gareth a compensation settlement of over £400,000. Through this settlement, Gareth and his family now have much-needed financial security.
With the settlement, Gareth was also able to purchase a home that’s adapted to meet his complex health needs. Our Court Of Protection team also helped him with setting up a personal injury trust to protect his finances for the future.
“The circumstances in which Gareth was employed were truly terrifying,” said Gareth’s solicitor, David. “He was working with substantial quantities of stone dust with no extraction and a complete failure to provide adequate respiratory protection. His employer was prosecuted by the HSE for failings in the workplace and it received a significant fine as a result.
“We are pleased to have negotiated a significant settlement sum for Gareth which will provide financial security for him and for his family. However, no amount of money will cure Gareth of his debilitating silicosis for which there is no cure and the effects of which Gareth will have to live with for the rest of his life.”
If you or a loved one has fallen ill due to working conditions then we may be able to help. Please contact our expert team online or by calling, 0370 1500 100.
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