Bakery worker wins compensation after breathing in flour dust

Posted by James Wood on
James Wood & Marcin Kurzawski

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A Southampton man who suffered severe health problems from exposure to flour dust at the bakery where he worked has been awarded a five-figure sum in compensation.

Marcin Kurzawski successfully brought a legal claim supported by BL Claims Solicitors against Nicholas and Harris Ltd, Salisbury, where his work had involved opening and emptying bags of flour into mixers.

Marcin had impressed bosses at the bakery so much that he steadily rose through the ranks into a management role.

But he didn’t know that because of health and safety failures in his workplace, the job he worked so hard at was making him ill - eventually getting to the point where he could no longer continue working in a job on which he was building his career.

Marcin turned to SOS Polonia, a Southampton charity which provides guidance and support for migrant workers. They put him in touch with James Wood, a lawyer and Senior Associate at BL Claims Solicitors, who supported Marcin through the process of his employment being terminated and then successfully pursued a legal claim on his behalf.

Marcin started working at the bakery, Nicholas & Harris Ltd, in Salisbury, shortly after arriving in Southampton from Poland in 2004.

His first role there was on a production line making rolls, which involved opening and emptying bags of flour into mixers and operating machinery to mix and cut the dough.

Later he progressed in the company, rising to Charge Hand and later Line Manager. However, his health was becoming worse and by 2009, he was beginning to notice that patches of skin on the back of his hands were becoming red, scaly and cracked. By the following year he was suffering from wheezing, coughing and a blocked and runny nose.

He said: “I had never had problems like that before. As a young man I was very sporty, and I was used to physical exercise and being in good health. It was only when I went to the doctor that I realised that this could have been caused by the conditions at work.”

It soon became obvious that Marcin’s condition was caused by flour dust and additives which are known to cause allergic reactions including asthma and dermatitis.

Marcin and his colleagues had not initially been given any protective equipment to prevent them breathing the dust, and the system of extraction at the bakery was not working well enough.

Although staff were later issued with paper face masks, they were of poor quality and employees were not given training in how to use them properly.

In 2012, Marcin was diagnosed with occupational asthma, rhinitis and contact dermatitis. The company moved him to its despatch department but he was still exposed to flour dust and his health problems continued.

In May 2013 his employment came to an end – and it was then that Marcin turned to SOS Polonia for help.

James Wood of BL Claims Solicitors gave Marcin advice as he left the company, ensuring that he was able to retain his right to pursue a personal injury claim against Nicholas & Harris.

The Health and Safety Executive carried out a visit to the company’s premises and issued a notice for material breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002, making recommendations that Nicholas & Harris improve its extraction and ventilation systems and issue appropriate respirators or masks to staff with suitable training.

Later, Marcin’s claim was settled a week before it was due to go to trial, with Mr Marcin accepting a five-figure sum. He has since found a new job in warehousing.

Marcin said: “I am very grateful to James for all the help he has given me. I needed someone to speak up for me especially when I felt my voice wasn’t being heard. James was always there for me, to fight my corner and to explain what was happening.

“I am pleased that because I spoke up, changes have now been made which will help others to avoid what happened to me.”

James said: “I was extremely pleased to have achieved such a good outcome for Marcin. This was clearly a case where Marcin’s illness could have been avoided if health and safety regulations had been observed. There will be long term consequences for Marcin in that he now has to find work which will not aggravate his asthma and dermatitis, limiting his employment options.

“I would urge anyone who believes that workplace conditions are affecting their health to speak up as soon as they can, and to seek help if they feel that they are not being listened to. For migrant workers this can be difficult which is why the support and guidance of organisations like SOS Polonia provide such an invaluable service to their community.”

To find out more about making a workplace personal injury claim, contact James Wood at BL Claims Solicitors on 023 8085 7426, email or call him on 023 8085 7426.

This article has appeared in the following publication - Southern Daily Echo


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About the Author

Jim is a Senior Associate in our Southampton Personal Injury Team with over 20 years experience in the field of personal injury.

James Wood
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