A former tool maker has been awarded £33,000 in compensation after he developed occupational asthma from almost two decades of exposure to metalwork fluid mist at a Ford plant in Dagenham.

Ronald Hymans, 60, from Essex worked at the plant operating machines that cut cast iron and hard steel. He was given a basic particle mask, but it did not provide any protection against the harmful coolant spray particles in the air.

Breathing difficulties

He began to develop intermittent chest complaints that progressed over a number of years to the point that he could only breathe properly when sitting down in a chair.

In 2007, a knee injury meant that Ronald had three months off work. During this time his doctor recorded that his breathing improved by a third and he was subsequently diagnosed with occupational asthma.

On his return to work, his employers moved him from the plant floor to work in an office but after seven months he was required to return to his previous role, once again exposing him further to the harmful fumes.

In 2011, Ronald’s condition had exacerbated to the point that he had seven months off work because of his asthma. When he returned to Ford he spent the remainder of his career working in an office.

Left partially disabled

Ronald said: “I have been left with life-long breathing difficulties and I am now classed as partially disabled. It is an extremely frustrating and limiting condition that has a very negative effect on my quality of life, I can’t even walk my dog without getting out of breath.”

Unite Legal Services instructed Thompsons Solicitors to make a claim for their member. Ronald had previously started his claim with a local ‘No Win No Fee’ solicitors firm but they had dropped his case at the first hurdle, simply accepting without question medical evidence that suggested his condition was pre-existing.

Thompsons Solicitors, with their extensive experience in industrial disease cases, weren’t so easily put off and secured £33,000 of compensation for Ronald in 2013.

Ford failed to provide a safe working environment

Peter Kavanagh, Unite’s London and Eastern Regional Secretary, said: “This case proves the importance of union membership and the quality of legal care that our members can expect. Ronald would have missed out on a significant sum of compensation if he had not approached Unite Legal Services for a second opinion.

“Ford failed to provide Ronald with a safe working environment. The plant was not fitted with appropriate extraction units over the machines and employees were not given suitable protection. Not only did they breach well known health and safety regulations but, knowing what they did about his condition, they still put Ronald back into the same working conditions that brought on his health complaint in the first place.

“A lack of interest and care from Ford has left Ronald with a medical condition that will limit him for the rest of his life.”