A 48-year-old man suffered lead poisoning after being exposed to the substance whilst at work. His employer, Frank Barnes Ltd, has been fined for health and safety failings.
The man had been part of a team hired to dismantle metal structures and machinery at a lead battery manufacturers. Whilst on site, the workers were given an induction on working with lead and their exposure was monitored.
Even with these precautions, the employee and some of his colleagues were subsequently found to have high levels of lead in their bodies.
A suspension period was enforced, as is required by law, to halt the worker's continuing exposure to lead fumes and dust; however, Frank Barnes Ltd operate a further site on Cross Street in Darwen where lead materials were also handled and the employee was allowed to continue his duties at this site.
When the worker had further blood tests taken they showed that levels of lead in his blood had remained high.
The man informed his Darwen-based employer of his health concerns; however, was still authorised to continue working at Cross Street.
Continued exposure resulted in the man being hospitalised - he had seven times the normal amount of lead in his body.
The effects of lead poisoning range from headaches and fatigue to abdominal cramps and problems with the digestive system. If exposure continues, it can lead to nerve, brain and kidney damage. In extreme cases, the individual can fall into a coma.
A GP treating another Cross Street worker for lead poisoning alerted the HSE in February 2010. At this point, a medical inspector made clear to the company that employees with signs of lead poisoning should be assigned to another work site until levels had reduced.
Despite these warnings, the folowing month, a HSE inspector visited the site and found two more workers exhibiting symptoms of lead poisoning.
Ignoring repeated warnings cost Frank Barnes Ltd dearly. The company were fined £30,000 and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £29,639 after pleading guilty to a breach of the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974.
After the hearing, HSE Inspector Michael Mullen described the case as one of the worst he had ever dealt with.
It is hard to understand why a company would repeatedly ignore warnings regarding the health and safety of their workers. Thankfully, Frank Barnes Ltd will now have to change its ways.
If you have developed an industrial disease as a result of workplace negligence in Scotland, we can help. Our specialist compensation claim solicitors can provide you with advice and guidance should you wish to make a claim in Sccotland.