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Home > News > Industrial disease compensation awarded to tunneller

6th April 2009

Industrial disease compensation awarded to tunneller

Some years prior to his retirement, our client had begun to experience severe breathing difficulties. When he was diagnosed with both silicosis and lung cancer, as a result of the negligent exposure by his employers, he was advised to seek personal injury advice about making a claim for personal injury compensation.

Our client had worked for a large number of construction companies during his working life, as was typical in the construction industry, as workers moved on from one completed project to another. Sadly, he was negligently exposed to concrete and other dust products by many of them, a situation which was also typical of the construction industry at that time.

Our specialist personal injury solicitors were able to negotiate a substantial sum in industrial disease compensation for our client’s pain and suffering.

Suffering silicosis and lung cancer

Towards the end of his working life, our client had experienced increasing breathlessness and had sought work outside the construction industry. When his breathing did not improve, he visited his GP who referred him to a consultant.

Over several years he underwent CT scans and X-rays but it was some time before he was eventually diagnosed as suffering from silicosis.

Although devastating, worse was to follow, as our client was further diagnosed with lung cancer, brought on by the amount of dust which had built up in his lungs. After surgery, our client finds great difficulty doing anything that requires exertion, such as climbing stairs, or walking any distance.

Our client’s negligent exposure to silica and concrete dust

For much of his working life, our client had been employed by various construction companies to work on tunnelling projects. However, at periods during his working life he had also been employed on other types of construction projects.

Many of these tunnelling projects involved working in confined spaces, drilling out the tunnels or re-lining tunnels that had had their original linings removed. The work in drilling out new tunnels involved using various tools such as a rock jigger, which worked on compressed air and pounded against the rock to break it up.

Other work involved the use of a bush hammer, which also ran on compressed air, and was used to knock off all the old rubble in existing tunnels, ready for the new lining to be installed. The tunnels had to be sealed during this operation to prevent water seepage, which meant that no extraction or ventilation was provided for the workers shut inside this environment.

For most of the time, our client was provided with a breathing mask that consisted of a piece of metal with a pad of cotton wool over the mouth. This was completely ineffectual against the extent of dust generated by these procedures. The dust always found its way inside the mask and he could feel the grit and dust on his teeth as he fought to breath in this hostile environment, which he has likened to a fog, in the sealed tunnel. At the end of a long shift, he would be covered in the dust, which would stick to his skin, hair and find its way up into his nose.

At other times, he was employed to mix the concrete, which again generated huge clouds of dust as the cement was tipped from the bags into the concrete mixer. In other jobs, our client was employed to cut paving slabs, which were cut dry with a stihl saw, throwing up cement dust into his face as he bent over the task in hand.

No warnings of the dangers of inhaling hazardous substances

During his extensive working life, none of his employers offered any advice regarding the dangers of working with these hazardous substances.

Nor was he provided either with adequate protection against inhaling these substances, or advice as to how to minimise the risk of working with the equipment.

Later, employers provided him with stihl saws that had a water attachment, allowing water to run down the blade and dampening the concrete slabs as he cut them, avoiding the generation of the concrete dust.

Breach of statutory duty

Our specialist industrial disease solicitors fought this case on the basis that the employers, the defendants, had been negligent in carrying out their statutory duties towards our client.

They failed to provide any adequate breathing equipment, and failed to provide adequate ventilation or extraction equipment, resulting in our client being exposed to hazardous substances, including silica, which he was forced to inhale.

The defendants were further negligent in that they offered no warnings to our client regarding the possible dangers, or information regarding the reduction of risks in working with these types of materials.

Industrial disease compensation claims

Clear Answers’ teams of experts are waiting to help you, should you decide to instruct us to represent you in your industrial disease compensation claim. We will be happy to provide you with expert legal advice, to answer any questions you may have regarding your claim, and to talk you through the claims process in plain English.

Our specialist lawyers have a reputation for obtaining the maximum compensation for people who suffer from an industrial disease as a result of negligence by the employer.

If you or a family member is suffering or has suffered an industrial disease, please ring us on 0800 783 9019 and speak to one of our advisers.

Alternatively, a representative will contact you as quickly as possible if you complete one of our on-line compensation claim forms.

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