£19,000 compensation for Occupational Asthma

Compensation of £19,000 was awarded by Clerkenwell County Court in London to a nurse suffering from occupational asthma and resulting depression.

Injury details

The Claimant was employed by the NHS as a theatre nurse.  During her time in theatre, the Claimant was exposed to gluteraldehyde contained in Cidex, a sterilising product.  She became breathless and suffered from tiredness.

The Claimant had several attacks of asthma and received a diagnosis of occupational asthma.

As a result of her condition and in an effort to prevent any further exposure, the Claimant was downgraded to a part-time employee working in the nuclear medicine department which was thought to be glutaraldehyde free. Unfortunately this was not the case, and Cidex was used in this department.

The nuclear medicine department was also close to an ambulance bay where glutaraldehyde was also being used on a regular basis.

This meant that the claimant was still breathing in the chemicals which were causing her asthma attacks and this caused her to have even more time off work.

In addition to the problem of asthma, the Claimant was dealing with patients who were being screened for cancer. She found this particularly distressing and was not given any training or counselling in how to deal with this stress.

The Claimant became increasingly depressed and was diagnosed with clinical depression caused by her asthma, concerns about the demotion in her job and her future and the stress of dealing with terminally ill patients.

The Claimant went on sick leave for about 6 months during which time she was diagnosed with compassion fatigue because she felt unable to carry out her nursing profession.  She took early retirement due to her poor health in 1993.

From that time on, the Claimant's asthmatic symptoms only recurred in the presence of glutaraldehyde which she took care to avoid. 

Allegation

It was alleged that the Claimant's employer was negligent insofar as they failed to provide her with a safe place to work and failed to take the appropriate steps to alleviate her symptoms.

The Claimant alleged that she had suffered respiratory damage and depression as a direct result of her employment.

Settlement and conclusion

The matter progressed to a Court hearing. The Court awarded her £14,000 for pain suffering and loss of amenity and £5,000 for the loss of congenial employment.