67-year-old personal assistant Margaret Colbridge has won £8250 in compensation after her employer ignored reports of a poisonous smell in her office.
Margaret’s employer, North Somerset Community Partnership, passed over several complaints from staff members that the smell made them nauseous and lethargic.
Carbon monoxide was only identified as the source of the problem when Margaret visited her GP. The doctor told her she had inhaled dangerous quantities of the toxic gas.
She believed the boiler or flue located outside the office’s window was the cause of the smell.
Following a routine inspection by an engineer, the flue was eventually moved to the roof of the building after he noticed the smell and advised staff to immediately leave the building.
Margaret has since retired but continues to suffer from a lack of smell as a result of inhaling the toxic gas.
She contacted her union UNISON who instructed Thompsons Solicitors to investigate a compensation claim on her behalf.
Margaret Colbridge said:
“I told my managers numerous times that the smell was making us all feel ill, but they weren’t interested. We worked in a small office, which meant we had to have the windows open. But as soon as we did this the pungent smell would flood in.
“I knew that the smell wasn’t normal, but when my doctor told me just how dangerous the gas was it really put things into perspective. Thankfully my symptoms have slowly improved over time, but if it wasn’t for the help of Thompsons and UNISON, it’s likely that my employer wouldn’t have admitted that it was in the wrong.”
UNISON South West regional secretary Joanne Kaye said:
“Margaret was brave and tenacious repeatedly raising the matter with her employer. Sadly, too many organisations treat health and safety like an optional extra.
“No one’s physical or mental health should suffer because of poor conditions at work. Together in trade unions we can take on bad practices and win decent working conditions for all.”
Jacqui Bridges, of Thompsons Solicitors, said:
“Carbon monoxide is often branded the ‘silent killer’, with 40 people dying from inhaling it every year in the UK. It’s particularly concerning to see that the employer ignored repeated complaints despite the well-known dangers of breathing in the toxic gas.
“Margaret did the right thing in raising her concerns to her manager. The complaints should have been investigated, but a lack of health and safety procedures at the company meant that our client has borne the brunt of its failings to address what could have been a fatal gas leak.”