A Yorkshire man, whose life-long career at a North Yorkshire power station was cut short following an industrial disease, has secured significant damages with the help of Unite the union and Thompsons Solicitors.

Fifty-seven-year-old Neil Lindridge, from Selby, began working for Drax Power Station in 1984 at the age of 20. He started as an electrician’s mate and worked his way up to become a mechanical fitter.

Having been employed by the power station for 35 years, he described himself as a “lifer” and considered himself “well thought of” by his bosses.

All that changed when Mr Lindridge became unwell after being exposed to the burning of biomass at the plant for several years.

He explains: “In 2013, I started having difficulties breathing and would wake up in the night in a panic. I also had to have surgery to remove polyps from my nose, caused by chronic inflammation. That was all bearable but in 2015, I had my first full-blown asthma attack and I dread to think what would have happened if my daughter’s boyfriend wasn’t there with his own asthma inhaler.”

He was sent for tests at Northern General Hospital where he was diagnosed with occupational asthma. While he expected support and reassurance from his employers, the reality was very different.

Mr Lindridge said: “As soon as they found out about my condition, they shut me away in a workshop. I wasn’t allowed to open a door or a window, and I couldn’t leave it unless it was to use the toilet.

“For three years, I sat in that workshop for nine hours a day with one other man, who had the same condition. It was like being in a prison and it was known jokingly around the plant as the ‘leper colony’. No-one was allowed to come in and see us for fear of dust being on their clothes. Towards the end of my employment the only people we saw regularly were from occupational health, and they would visit twice a day to monitor my breathing. Occasionally, a supervisor would also check in on us.”

For a man who had been very active in his career, the endless days sitting in isolation began to have an impact on Mr Lindridge’s mental health. Three years after the diagnosis and unable to continue working, Mr Lindridge was dismissed by Drax Power Station on the grounds of ill health.

He has received significant damages from his former employers after seeking support from Unite the union and Thompsons Solicitors.

It has been reported that Drax will also face criminal charges from the Health and Safety Executive for exposure staff to dangerous levels of dust later this year.

Mark Allen, a senior industrial disease lawyer at Thompsons, said: “The treatment of Mr Lindridge by his employer was nothing short of shocking. Despite 35 years loyal service, he was locked away and forgotten about with little regard to his physical and mental health.

“Throughout the claim they stalled and side-stepped the legal process to avoid liability, but in the end, Mr Lindridge received the money he was due. I hope that he now gets to enjoy the retirement he deserves.”

Karen Reay, North East, Yorkshire and Humberside regional secretary at Unite the Union, added: “The way that Mr Lindridge was treated with disdain by his employer, despite 35 years of dedicated service, shows why it is incredibly important that working people have the support of trade unions. We are proud that, as a member of Unite the union, Mr Lindridge gets to keep 100 per cent of his compensation.”

After leaving Drax Power Station, Mr Lindridge thought he had fallen out of love with mechanics but he has found a new hobby after making the decision to retire from the working world. He said: “Me and my friend have started doing up old motorbikes as a hobby. I never thought I’d pick up a spanner again, but it’s funny how you get back into it.

“I’d like to thank both my union and Thompsons who, working together, got this outcome for me and now it means that I can just enjoy my retirement.”