Occupational health legal round-up

Lead poisoning a live issue

A Scottish firm has been fined £10,000 after pleading guilty to offences under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, which resulted in two workers being admitted to hospital with acute lead poisoning. Blairish Restorations failed to identify that lead paint was present during a renovation project and failed to ensure suitable precautions were taken during the sanding down and removal of old paintwork. As a result, workers inhaled and digested lead dust over several months during 2008, and the dust was also transferred on the workers’ overalls to their homes, potentially endangering their families.

  • In practice: Health and Safety Executive inspector Gary Stimpson believes the case is important because it reminds all primary contractors of their duty of care to others working on a construction site, even if individuals are not in their direct employ. It also emphasises that lead is a real, current problem, not just a historic, one, and that those involved in renovating old buildings need to be particularly vigilant. “Exposure to lead can result in significant and debilitating symptoms such as anaemia, nausea and constipation, and even nerve, brain and/or kidney damage,” he adds.

Ferry worker receives damages for deafness

A Liverpool ferry worker has received a substantial sum in damages after being exposed to dangerous levels of noise at work over many years. Peter Hall suffered occupational deafness after working on the vehicle decks of Stena Line ferries for 18 years. He was never provided with ear protection, despite working in an enclosed space where car and lorry engines were often running. Stena Line denied liability, but agreed to an out-of-court settlement.

  • In practice: Matthew Tollitt of Thompsons Solicitors adds that the combination of engine noise and the necessity of working in an enclosed space should have triggered the employer to provide appropriate ear protection. “Their failure to do so meant they were responsible for his deafness,” Tollitt believes.

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