A Gloucester man who developed asthma after breathing in dangerous chemicals at work has secured £50,000 in compensation.

The 50-year-old Unite member had been working on the shop floor of an industrial painting firm for more than two decades when he began feeling breathless and suffering chest pains. A specialist later diagnosed him with severe occupational asthma – a condition caused by chemicals used in paint at the factory.

The Unite member had intermittent periods off work during the 18 months following his diagnosis, before being laid off by his employer. He has since struggled to find alternative employment and continues to suffer breathlessness.

“I was exposed to the harmful paint fumes almost every day for more than 20 years,” he said. “In a way, I’m surprised it took so long for the illness to develop but I guess it was really just a matter of time.”

He contacted Unite Legal Services and instructed industrial disease specialists Thompsons Solicitors to make a compensation claim.

“As the case went on it became clear my employer had been negligent,” he said. “I found out that the company was supposed to organise respiratory tests for all shop floor staff at least twice a year, but this rarely happened. I remember at one point going seven years without ever having a test. Ventilation and maintenance of the machinery was equally poor, meaning I couldn’t help but breathe the substance in during my working day.

“I think it’s important that workers know this type of mistreatment isn’t acceptable. This is why I was happy to turn to Unite Legal Services and Thompsons Solicitors for legal help and guidance. What they did was exemplary.”

Stuart Davies, Unite Regional Legal Officer in the South West, said: “Occupational asthma is a long-term and, in some cases, severe condition that is the consequence of failures by an employer to protect their workforce. Our member’s employer seemed indifferent to protecting his health, allowing him to work unprotected in a poorly ventilated area and failing to organise the respiratory tests.

“A few small tweaks to the firm’s health and safety policy would have made a world of difference for our member. But they ignored all decent, let alone legal duties and, as a result, he’s been left with a life-long industrial disease.”

“I think it’s important that workers know this type of mistreatment isn’t acceptable."

Unite member and Thomsons' industrial disease client