A manual worker who developed a painful skin condition after being exposed to irritants at work has received £75,000 in compensation after help from his trade union.

Gary Rigby, 50, from Wellington in Telford has had to move into a much lower paid job after he was exposed to Hexamine, a type of resin coated sand, in his job working for St Gobain PAM UK in Telford.

Mr Rigby was exposed to the sand when he started work in the Core Shop. Within three weeks his hands began to blister and soon the itchy and painful rash spread to his arms, chest, neck and feet.

Although he was provided with leather gloves and boots to wear in the foundry, they failed to protect him from the irritant.

GP diagnosed work related dermatitis

His GP diagnosed work related dermatitis and he had to take two weeks off work. When he returned in June 2007 he was removed to another department until his skin cleared up.

Six weeks later he was again exposed to the resin and had an allergic reaction, which led to him taking another two weeks off.

Mr Rigby, has worked for the foundry, which makes pipe fittings, for 34 years. Eventually the firm found him a job in St Gobain’s warehouse as a picker where he isn’t exposed to the irritant although he is now on a low paid job with no prospects of earning more.

Following his move to a new job with reduced earnings he contacted his trade union, Unite, which instructed its lawyers Thompsons Solicitors to investigate a claim for compensation.

Need for proper protective equipment

Thompsons argued that St Gobain should have undertaken a risk assessment which would have highlighted the need for proper protective equipment for staff.

St Gobain settled the claim out of court.

Mr Rigby said: “My reaction to the resin means that I can no longer work in the more skilled jobs in the foundry. As a result I’m now in the lowest paid role at the site. The bottom line is I’m receiving less wages because I wasn’t given the right protective gear.”

Stefan Blasczyk from Unite said: “This case highlights the importance of employers providing employees with the correct PP equipment to keep them safe in their jobs. With fit for purpose gloves and footwear Mr Rigby would never have developed this skin condition. Now his years of experience on the factory floor are wasted, and the company has an overqualified warehouse picker.”

Karl De-Lloyd from Thompsons Solicitors added: “Foundry’s are dangerous places. St Gobain should have known the risks of this irritant. A lack of thought or planning sadly means that Mr Rigby’s earning capacity has been vastly reduced.”