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Former Engineering Worker Secures Five-Figure Settlement After Exposure To Metalworking Fluids


Engineering firms in the South Yorkshire region are being warned about the potential dangers of failing to maintain the metal working fluids used by their employees. Unless properly maintained, the mists which are formed in the engineering process have the very real potential to cause or exacerbate asthma in those working with the oils.

The warning comes after Sheffield man Mr W, agreed a five-figure settlement with his former employer after suffering an exacerbation of his asthma. Mr W alleged that his breathing difficulties had been caused as a result of working with metal working fluids at his former employer’s engineering shop. That settlement was reached without an admission of liability.

Mr W suffered asthma as a child but, until beginning work with the defendant, that asthma was well controlled. Gradually, Mr he came to rely on inhalers and ultimately, had to give up his job. Now working away from those metalworking fluids, Mr W is recovering.

David Johnston-Keay, a solicitor at Sheffield based law firm Irwin Mitchell represented Mr W in his claim:

“The Health & Safety Executive (‘HSE’) have been advising employers about the need to ensure metal working fluids are properly maintained for many years.  Mr W’s condition was preventable and the compensation he has received goes only some way to repay the wages he lost and the breathlessness and discomfort he suffered for a number of years.”

This is not an isolated case. David Johnston-Keay also represents Mr E, a 53 year old former machine operator at another Sheffield based engineering firm. Mr E suffers with asthma, which his Respiratory Consultant says was caused as a result of his exposure to metal working fluids used on the centreless grinders he operated at work.

“Mr E had no previous history of asthma” says David Johnston-Keay. “Previously a regular gym member, Mr E now struggles to walk any distances without getting out of breath.  He is unlikely to work again and now receives Disability Allowance benefit due to the severity of his breathing difficulties. No amount of compensation will give Mr E his health back, but it is hoped that should his claim succeed, any award will go some way help with the financial impact he suffers as a result of losing his job.”

The respiratory effects of exposure to poorly maintained metal working fluids have been known for a number of years and yet some employers still fail to heed the warnings. Guidance is freely available on the HSE website and there are very simple steps employers can to take to ensure compliance, such as monitoring and regular changing of the oils used. The guidance is there for a reason and if employers follow that advice, injuries such as these can be prevented.

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.