Claims over toxic air at work grow

The Guardian - - NATIONAL - Sandra Lav­ille and Sarah Marsh

Le­gal claims over ex­po­sure to diesel ex­haust fumes at work are grow­ing as unions warn that toxic air in the work­place is a time­bomb on a par with as­bestos.

Royal Mail and at least one lo­cal author­ity are among em­ploy­ers be­ing sued over al­leged fail­ures to pro­tect staff from the dam­ag­ing health ef­fects of diesel pol­lu­tion from ve­hi­cles. More cases are lined up, ac­cord­ing to lawyers and unions in­volved in sup­port­ing work­ers.

Dan Shears, the health and safety di­rec­tor for the GMB union, said: “It needs a test case and then there will be an in­crease in claims … There are po­ten­tially lots of peo­ple who have un­nec­es­sar­ily suf­fered pre­ma­ture death who may have been af­fected by in­dus­trial ex­po­sure.

“We are now with diesel in the same place we were with as­bestos in the 1930s.”

Five years ago the In­ter­na­tional Agency for Re­search in Can­cer clas­si­fied diesel en­gine ex­haust emis­sions as car­cino­genic to hu­mans. That clas­si­fi­ca­tion – com­bined with grow­ing aware­ness of the dam­ag­ing ef­fects of diesel air pol­lu­tion, the VW emis­sions scan­dal, and re­search show­ing some diesel cars have been emit­ting about six times more ni­tro­gen ox­ide than is al­lowed – has led ris­ing num­bers of em­ploy­ees to con­sider ac­tion.

Parcelforce World­wide, part of Royal Mail Group, is be­ing sued for neg­li­gence for al­legedly breach­ing health and safety reg­u­la­tions. Un­der the Con­trol of Sub­stance Haz­ardous to Health reg­u­la­tions 2002, all em­ploy­ers have a le­gal duty to pre­vent ex­po­sure to sub­stances that can cause health prob­lems.

The claimant is a Parcelforce em­ployee who worked at a de­pot where he says he was ex­posed daily to diesel pol­lu­tion. He says this led him to de­velop asthma. “The claimant was ex­posed to, in­gested and breathed diesel ex­haust fumes and par­tic­u­late and other com­bus­tion gases,” the claim states. The claimant said no pro­tec­tion was pro­vided in the form of ven­ti­la­tion in his booth or pro­tec­tive equip­ment.

His lawyer, Phillip Gower, said: “We have seen an in­crease in the num­ber of in­quiries from clients who have been ex­posed to diesel fumes, car ex­haust fumes and pol­lu­tion at work.”

Royal Mail con­firmed that a Parcelforce World­wide em­ployee has submitted a claim al­leg­ing that diesel fumes had con­trib­uted to his asthma. “Royal Mail Group has de­nied li­a­bil­ity and is ro­bustly de­fend­ing this claim,” it said.

Re­searchers have found that some diesel ve­hi­cles pro­duce about six times more ni­tro­gen ox­ide on the road than is le­gally al­lowed

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.