A fast food worker who has been left profoundly deaf after he was exposed to carbon monoxide fumes which killed his colleague at the South London takeaway they worked in has received compensation after help from Unite Legal Services.

The teenager was left in a critical condition after he was overcome by carbon monoxide fumes at the takeaway in March 2009.

His friend and work colleague was killed by the fumes coming from a faulty propane gas heater in the shop’s storeroom.

The pair were found on the storeroom’s floor by the shop owner who called the emergency services.

Deafness caused by Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

The young man was in a coma for several days and was diagnosed as deaf when he woke up.

He has since learnt how to lip read and has hearing aids in both ears but has been told that his disability will mean he will find it difficult to find employment in the future.

Following his diagnosis his family were supported in their claim for compensation by his dad’s trade union, Unite the Union.

Unite Legal Services instructed Thompsons Solicitors to act on their behalf.

Switch on the heater was faulty

Investigations found a safety switch on the heater was faulty and had been tampered with in an effort to fix it.

The shop owner was originally charged with manslaughter and causing grievous bodily harm but the charges were dropped. He then pleaded guilty to contravening a health and safety regulation under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. He was given a six month prison sentence, suspended for two years and was ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work.

The shop owner’s employer’s liability insurers’ settled the claim out of court for £150,000.

The teenager said: “My life has been turned upside down by that faulty heater. I’ve lost a good friend and I’ve lost my hearing, both of which have taken a long time to come to terms with. I used to be outgoing and sociable but I now find it difficult to communicate and I know that my employment opportunities are limited. This compensation will never make up for the loss of my friend or my hearing but will go some way towards covering the financial losses I have encountered as a result of my disability.”

Gas appliances should be regularly checked and monitored

Peter Kavanagh from Unite the Union said: “This is a shocking tale where the life of a teenager was lost unnecessarily and another has been left with profound disabilities because their employer failed to ensure the gas heater was safe.

“Carbon monoxide poisoning is a silent killer and all employers should be aware of the dangers and as a result ensure that their gas appliances are regularly checked and monitored. This case makes a mockery of the government’s claims that so-called low risk workplaces such as shops should have fewer health and safety regulations to comply with. Any workplace can become lethal if safety corners are cut.”

“Unite Legal Services was pleased to support this young man’s family at this difficult time and all our members should take some comfort from knowing that our legal services are there to act for members and their families.”

Jane McCool from Unite’s panel solicitors’ Thompsons Solicitors added: “This employer destroyed our client’s life by failing to replace this faulty heater. This compensation cannot alleviate the pain that he has endured as a result of this horrendous experience but it is some recognition of the problems he faces as a result of his physical disabilities.”