Asthma sufferer wins fight over council's toxic cleaning system26 November 2009
Exposed to dangerous chemicals
A hospital worker has received compensation after a council exposed him to a toxic cleaning substance for more than a year, which seriously aggravated his asthma.
Julian Corlett, who works as an operational practitioner at Scunthorpe General Hospital and is secretary of UNISON's Scunthorpe health branch, was forced to take time off work because the council refused to clear up the Freshclean cleaning powder dumped in his flat’s stairwell.
The powder had been left on the communal stairwell from August 2006 and is a known irritant for those who suffer breathing difficulties.
The product advises that protective clothing, a dust mask or respirator should be used to avoid dust inhalation.
Mild asthma was aggravated
Julian previously had mild asthma which did not need use of an inhaler, but within 12 months of being exposed to the cleaner, he needed to use four.
UNISON’s lawyers, Thompsons Solicitors, settled the claim for £1,800. North Lincolnshire Council did not admit liability.
Julian Corlett said:
“The council had no grasp of the severity of the problem.
The powder was thick, like snow, and every time I came home I could not stop it coming into the house.
“I had chronic breathing difficulties and was unable to sleep, which had a huge effect on my work performance and relationships.
“It took such a long time to resolve, because the council did not take my complaints seriously, which made me feel depressed.
“If I hadn’t received help from UNISON and Thompsons I would still be living in a nightmare.”
Thompsons recovered compensation
John Cafferty, Head of Health for UNISON’s Yorkshire and Humberside region, said:
“We are pleased that Mr Corlett has received compensation for the effect of the toxic cleaning substance.
“But this cannot make up for such a long period of health problems, which have had a knock on effect on his work, relationships and mental health.
“It is disgraceful that Julian Corlett’s health complaint was not taken seriously and he would have been left to suffer in silence without UNISON’s help.
“Organisation’s must take note of health and safety problems and act on concerns and complaints, if the Council had acted when initially asked this could so easily have been avoided.”
Asthma can be a debilitating condition
Gillian Sayers, of Thompsons Solicitors, said:
“This case shows the important role trade union legal services have to play when members are injured in incidents which occur outside the work place.
“Asthma can be a debilitating condition. Julian was in control of his asthma before his contact with this product and, as a result of his exposure, was forced to take medication.
“Steps should have been taken to make sure it was kept out of harm’s way.”
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