A lab technician, who was sacked by her school on the grounds of ill health after developing asthma, has received a five-figure compensation settlement thanks to the support of UNISON and Thompsons Solicitors.
The UNISON member, 63, developed asthma while working as a lab technician in a science department of a school in Rotherham. Her employer paid out after admitting liability for failing to comply with Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) regulations.
Issues started to arise in 2004, when she noticed problems with the air quality and ventilation in a new room at the school’s science department.
Noxious fumes would regularly form a fog or cloud during her workday. These fumes were later identified as the result of hydrochloric acid, sodium hydroxide, nitric acid and ammonium chloride not being stored in a sealed chemical cupboard.
These chemicals are classed as substances that can cause harm to health and must meet COSHH 2002 regulations – something the school failed to do.
Exposure to these irritants has severely affected her health, yet her former employer did not accept that they directly contributed to her asthma diagnosis.
The experience has left her jobless after years of loyal service. She was dismissed in November 2018 - something she’s still struggling to come to terms with almost four years later.
She said: “Despite flagging up the unsafe work environment on numerous occasions with senior leadership at the school, my warnings fell on deaf ears. The hazardous working conditions I was forced to work in ultimately cost me my job.
“It’s disappointing that my employer did not address the issues raised when I made them aware and only sought to overhaul their processes – relating to toxic chemicals – after I was dismissed on ‘ill health’ grounds.
“I’m hoping that securing a successful outcome will encourage others who feel they are working in unsafe environments to make a stand through their trade union, in order to get compensation for their losses, like I did.”
Thompsons argued that the client would never have been injured, had the school abided by the health and safety regulations relating to hazardous substances.