A Ford employee referred to Thompsons Solicitors by his union Unite has received compensation for exposure to irritants at work. Initially his employer offered just £2,000 in compensation.

The 41-year-old developed painful dermatitis after he was exposed to a type of rubber lubricant used to build engines at the Ford plant in Dagenham.

He has been left with a life-long allergy, which leaves his hands red, itchy and blistered.
The irritant must not come into contact with skin and must be handled with specialist gloves, but the Unite the union member was never warned about the dangers.

He first noticed problems with his hands in December 2006 but it took Ford’s occupational health department more than eighteen months to give the employee a patch test to discover the cause.

Has to avoid contact with the lubricant

By the time he was diagnosed his hands were covered in blisters and his flesh was rotting.

He still works for the car company but is now limited in the jobs that he can do because he needs to avoid contact with the lubricant.

He said he fears that if he ever left employment with Ford he would find it difficult to find another job in the industry due to his allergy.

"Four years ago I could have left Fords with the skills I have and got a job elsewhere. Now if I ever need to find another job I will be restricted in what I can do due to my skin condition. I’ve had to learn to live with my hands being sore and itchy as I know I will suffer like this for the rest of my life but feeling limited in what I can do for the next twenty-odd years of my working life is hard."

Thompsons Solicitors made claim for compensation

After he was diagnosed with dermatitis he contacted his trade union Unite which instructed its lawyers Thompsons Solicitors to pursue a claim for compensation.

Thompsons argued that Ford should have warned him of the dangers of the substance and provided him with safety equipment.

Ford quickly admitted liability but offered just £2,000. Thompsons argued the sum wasn’t good enough.

12 times more compensation than original offer

Steve Hart, Regional Secretary at Unite said: "Dermatitis is more than just an inflammation of the skin, it can be particularly painful in serious cases and is avoidable if employers make sure working practices avoid contact with well known irritants.

"This member has been let down by Ford and now has real concerns about his working future. The final settlement sum in this case proves how important specialist legal help can be - he got 12 times more compensation than Ford initially tried to short change him with."

Tom Moore from Thompsons Solicitors said: "There are tough laws to force employers to take proper precautions against skin conditions like dermatitis. Ford knew this and though they admitted liability quickly they thought they could get away with a low offer when, as we have shown him and them, his case was worth many times more."