Lawyer's Safety Call
A specialist industrial illness lawyer is urging Yorkshire industrial companies to ensure workers are properly protected at work in order to reduce the number of injuries caused by occupational diseases.
The call comes from Ian Bailey, a Partner and Head of the Industrial Illness team at Irwin Mitchell in Leeds, who represents clients affected by industrial diseases, including mesothelioma - a lung cancer caused by exposure to asbestos - and rarer illnesses such as silicosis, a lung disease which develops as a result of inhaling silica dust.
These victims include a 61-year-old stone mason, from Shipley West Yorkshire, who was diagnosed with silicosis while working at Fagley Quarries, in Bradford. He had worked at the quarry for more than 10 years before he was forced to leave his job in 2009 – three years after he was first diagnosed with silicosis.
Although his role as a stone mason involved working with stone which released harmful levels of silica dust, his workplace did not comply with regulations concerning the control of dust at work and he was not provided with suitable protective breathing equipment. He has since had to give up work, and suffers from severe breathing difficulties which mean that he struggles to walk and climb stairs.
Ian Bailey said: “Occupational illness can have a devastating effect on the lives of victims, and it is vital that more is done to protect workers. The industry is increasingly aware of mesothelioma, and on the whole companies are better at protecting workers from asbestos than they were 30 or 40 years ago, but sadly this isn’t the case for all occupational diseases. Silicosis is not a harmless condition. It can be severely disabling and carries with it the risk of lung cancer in the future.”
“On average there are now less than 100 new cases of silicosis being diagnosed each year, but this is still far too many. This is still 100 workers whose lives are being ruined because proper precautions were not taken where the risks were plain to see.”
In this case Fagley Quarries initially denied they were responsible for the employee contracting silicosis, despite the fact that he had worked at the company for more than 10 years without being provided with a face mask.
It was only as court proceedings progressed, and after a number of experts had given evidence on the condition, that Fagley Quarries agreed to pay damages to the victim. Irwin Mitchell negotiated a substantial settlement to cover the cost of his lost earnings and provide for his care when the condition deteriorates.
Bailey added: “Every day we work with people whose lives have been shattered by occupational diseases.
“We are often able to recover the cost of their care and lost earnings, but this can never turn the clock back and heal them. They have to live in the knowledge that they are suffering from a debilitating disease.
“The HSE issues clear guidelines in relation to working with harmful levels of stone dust and there are companies such as Fagley Quarries which have clearly disregarded these. Employers need to ensure they do everything they can to protect the health and safety of all employees and other contractors on site.”
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.