Birmingham Man Marks World Asthma Day With Plea To Employers
An ex-machine operator from Birmingham who secured a five-figure settlement after his former employer admitted that safety failings led to his occupational asthma is marking World Asthma Day (May 1st) by urging all businesses to put the welfare of workers first.
Alan James, 47, from Great Barr, developed breathing problems in October 2013 around two years after he first started work at Akutek Technologies, where his role producing horse saddles from polyurethane foam saw him exposed to a range of fumes and substances such as isocyanates.
While he reported his symptoms to his employer, he was left stunned when no action was taken to address the conditions he faced. By February 2014, he was referred to the Birmingham Chest Clinic and following tests it was confirmed around a year later that he had developed occupational asthma most likely due to isocyanate exposure.
Following the diagnosis, Alan instructed workplace illness lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate his case. Now, after the experts helped him secure a settlement of £35,000 from Akutek Technologies, he is demanding that all employers mark World Asthma Day by ensuring they are doing all they can to protect workers from the risk of occupational asthma.
Alex Shorey, the specialist workplace illness lawyer at Irwin Mitchell’s Birmingham office who represents Alan, said:
Expert Opinion“This was a truly terrible case in which a worker developed a serious lasting illness as a result of safety failings which should have been avoided.
“Employers have a duty to always put the health and safety of workers first, yet time and time again we see cases in which individuals have not been provided with the correct protective equipment or training to carry out their work in a safe manner.
“This is why we are joining with Alan to call for employers to use World Asthma Day as an important reminder of the huge impact the condition can have on lives and why they need to be meeting their responsibilities to staff.” Alex Shorey - Associate Solicitor
Alan started work as a machine operator in June 2011, with his work revolving around making up to 1,000 horse saddles a week.
The father-of-two recalled: “The production process meant I was exposed to isocyanates and fumes and while I was given a half-face mask, it would fill with spit and sweat so there were times I simply had to take it off.
“The extraction systems in the work area were also very poor and you could see the fumes and vapours lingering in the air. At no point was I given any training or advice on the potential risk of occupational asthma.
“When my breathing problems developed I told work, yet nothing was done. It was hard to take and I just felt like my condition had been completely ignored. My asthma attacks then started to get a lot worse and it was horrible to go through, particularly as I could see how it worried my children.
“It was only following some tests at Birmingham Chest Clinic that I actually realised my condition could be linked to work and it is shocking to think that I was never properly protected from the risk of harm.”
Alan remains under the care of specialist nurses and his current employer now also monitors his condition.
He added: “I am hugely frustrated by what has happened to me. While the settlement is welcome, my legal case was always about more than money – it was about ensuring that no one else faces everything I have been through.
“World Asthma Day is an important time to reflect on the issue of occupational asthma and it is vital that employers recognise their responsibilities on this issue.”
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