Rotten workplace gives UNISON member occupational asthma02 August 2013
Exposed to fungal spores at work
A 62-year-old UNISON member who developed occupational asthma after being exposed to fungal spores at his place of work has received £12,000 in compensation.
David Livingstone, from Cumbria was working as a substance misuse specialist for Addiction Dependency Solutions Ltd, a regional charity specialising in drug and alcohol services, at a 400-year-old building in Whitehorse Yard, Kendal when he became ill.
Mould developed on the building’s exterior wall less than 2ft away from his desk
In October 2008 having been working on the ground floor of the office building for six years he noticed mould developing on the building’s exterior wall less than 2ft away from his desk.
Despite making his concerns about daily exposure to mould spores known to his employers they neither removed nor even investigated the fungus.
David developed an aggressive cough and a wheezy chest
Within two months David developed an aggressive cough and a wheezy chest. The symptoms worsened over time leaving him unable to work for a month.
While his colleagues also developed similar symptoms, David’s proximity to the mould meant his condition was more severe.
He returned to work in early 2009 and his health again began to deteriorate but it wasn't until March 2009 – five months after it had appeared – that his employers instructed builders to investigate the mould.
The problem was identified as a leaking soil pipe within the external wall as well as general damp throughout the building’s stonework. An extensive six months renovation was required.
David was officially diagnosed with occupational asthma and prescribed ongoing medication to control his condition. Six years on, he still needs to take two asthma inhalers on a daily basis.
David, who had been a UNISON member for six years at the time his condition developed, contacted his union who instructed Thompsons Solicitors to investigate his claim for compensation.
“Developing a chronic respiratory disease from your place of work is unthinkable,” said David.
“It took my employers months to take any action, and as a result I’m left with a condition that still affects me six years on. Luckily my medication helps to control my symptoms, but seeing as I hadn’t suffered any chest complaints before, the lasting illness is really upsetting and very frustrating.”
Kevan Nelson from UNISON said: "Employers have a legal duty to provide a safe working environment. Waiting for health issues to become apparent before addressing obvious health hazards in the workplace should be a thing of the past.
“The mould spores on the wall was talked about openly in the workplace and regularly raised as a health issue to the management, yet David’s employers failed to resolve the issue for five months. It shows a dangerous disregard for his wellbeing and that of his colleagues.”
Spencer Knaggs, a solicitor at Thompsons’ Manchester office, said: “What’s shocking about this case is the employer’s failure to take swift and appropriate action. My client should have been removed from the desk near the fungus as soon as it appeared.”
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