£20,000 Compensation in 2022 for Former Steel Worker with Bladder Cancer

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Simon Rosser

Personal Injury & Disease Litigation Solicitor

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After working at a steel company for 20 years until 2001, Andy sadly developed bladder cancer in 2013. See how we managed to secure £20,000 in compensation for him after he claimed against his former employer.

In the 1980s and 1990s, Andy was employed at the Port Talbot Steelworks under British Steel/Corus, subsequently acquired by the world-renowned TATA Steel. He held a pivotal position primarily stationed within the coke plant—an area fraught with occupational hazards. The coke plant involved the production of coke, a grey, hardened, coal-derived fuel obtained by heating coal in the absence of air through a process known as coking.

This method entailed baking coal in an airless kiln or furnace, resulting in a porous substance free from impurities found in raw coal. Andy spent 6 out of his 8-hour shifts working in this fume-intensive environment, where he was stationed at the top of the ‘battery’ of the coke oven.

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What was the risk?

The combustion of coal within the coke ovens produced fumes containing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, benzene and other carcinogenic substances such as aromatic amines; and it is well recognised that these substances are dangerous and can cause bladder cancer, but there were less studies and knowledge around this in the 1980s when compared to now.

Carcinogenic substances and the health effects of coal mining and the products of combustion have been researched for many years in a number of studies, and anyone who works in this industry must ensure that their employers are properly equipped in the management of such chemicals.

Employer's Duty: Proper Handling of Hazardous Substances in the Workplace

As with all workplaces where work is being undertaken which involves the use of chemicals and products hazards to your health, Andy’s employer had a duty of care, to abide by the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations. When employers are negligent in not fulfilling  their duty of care, and don’t for example provide the correct safety equipment, training or guidelines, people can unfortunately develop serious health issues, such as asthma, asbestosis and work-related cancer; as was the case for Andy.

Regardless of whether you have just been diagnosed with a workplace illness or you have only just begun to suspect an existing illness you have been diagnosed with was caused by your work, our Industrial Disease Solicitors could help you claim compensation.

How Andy Was Exposed to Chemicals at Work

Though Andy’s employers offered PPE in the workplace, this was sadly not enough to protect him from hazards he faced. The personal protective equipment that was offered to Andy was in the form of an airstream helmet, a large visor and regulatory work clothes. Unfortunately, this equipment was faulty, meaning that Andy was still exposed to the dangerous carcinogenic fumes, which are what contributed to the bladder cancer that he was later diagnosed with.

For example, it was alleged that:

  • The seals on ovens were faulty, meaning fumes could leak out of them.
  • The cabin that Andy worked within had no air filtration system.
  • The airstream helmet, which was supposed to pump filtered air across his face, was open underneath and fumes could enter his breathing zone. Along with this, the batteries in these helmets would often go flat and new ones would be unavailable, so he’d have gaps where he’d work unprotected.
  • His overalls were not in a good condition, so personal protection was not available at all times.

Andy’s Diagnosis of Cancer

In July 2013, Twelve years after leaving the coke plant, Andy was sadly diagnosed with bladder cancer, with no previous health concerns relating to this in his past. He also had no family history of bladder cancer and was never a smoker (one of the other main risks factors for developing bladder cancer), so these could be ruled out as a cause for his cancer.

Because there was no other obvious cause of his bladder cancer Andy soon realised that the cause could’ve been his exposure to dangerous chemicals during his 20 years working at the coke plant. He came to this conclusion because his career away from the coke plant had been limited to working in shops and hotels, environments vastly different from his job at the Port Talbot Steelworks and without exposure to harmful chemicals.

After seeking medical advice, a medical expert then declared that there was sufficient evidence to conclude that the exposure to carcinogens of 20 years was significant enough to be the likely cause of his bladder cancer.

In a 2020 study on occupational bladder cancer, conducted on 536 patients, it was found that up to 10% of Bladder Cancers may arise following occupational exposure to carcinogens. This means that high-grade cancers were more prevalent than low-grade diseases in workers from the steel, foundry, metal, engineering, and transport industries (p<0.05). The same trend was observed in workers exposed to crack detection dyes, chromium, coal/oil/gas by-products, diesel fumes/fuel/aircraft fuel, and solvents like trichloroethylene.

Sadly this is a frequent issue in Andy's industry, and his bladder cancer was deemed on the balance of probabilities to be as a result of his work in the steel trade, which regrettably affected his health.

Fortunately, the type of cancer that Andy had was unlikely to cause death, but he still understandably went through huge emotional difficulties after his diagnosis; along with attending testing every 6 months, and had to undergo a total of 4 operations.

How Our Lawyers Helped Andy Claim Compensation

Andy got in touch with our expert Industrial Disease lawyers, who have years of experience dealing with claims like this. They are specialists at working collaboratively with all parties to gather evidence and get people compensation for industrial diseases caused by their workplace. We were able to go forward and help Andy make an industrial disease claim against his former employer. We obtained all of the expert medical and forensic evidence needed to support Andy’s case against his former employer and prove that his bladder cancer was as a result of his work at the Steel Foundry.

Our specialist lawyers contacted the Steelworks’ legal representatives to ask them to admit liability for his unfortunate illness that he incurred. We also gathered expert forensic engineering evidence and consulted a medical expert (a urologist), who was prepared to support the claim that Andy’s bladder cancer was most likely caused by exposure to the coke oven fumes. Liability was denied by the Steelworks’, and because Andy’s claim was part of a larger Group Action Litigation Order, we were unable to bring the claim until 2022.

After initiating the legal process by filing a formal claim with the courts , Andy's former employers (through their insurers) made an offer of £20,000 to settle his case before a trial, a development that brought him immense satisfaction. We are thrilled to report that recent medical updates have confirmed his tumour-free status, and there is an 85% chance of survival from the cancer.

Despite improvements in workplace health and safety over the decades   with people who work in hazardous working environments, so you must always ensure that your workplace is offering the correct personal protection equipment to stop anything happening down the line. Sadly, PPE doesn’t always help, (if like in Andy’s case it does not offer sufficient protection or is not always available), and when it doesn’t, you shouldn’t hesitate to seek legal advice to weigh up your options.

If you’ve developed a disease due to exposure to chemicals or fumes within your workplace environment, get in touch with our lawyers today to see if you could make a claim. Compensation can’t reverse what has happened to you, but we can get you access to medical experts, private treatment and financial support for any long-term care and support you might need. Compensation can, where possible, get you on the road to recovery and help you live as fulfilling a life as possible, and we want to be a part of making that happen.

We have a huge amount of experience fighting for justice on behalf of our clients and offer a Free assessment to see if you have a claim for compensation.  Get in touch today to learn more about our no win, no fee agreements.


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PubMed. (n.d.). Benzidine. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/540618/

HSE. (n.d.). Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH). Health and Safety Executive. Retrieved from https://www.hse.gov.uk/coshh/

Ong, C. N., & Lee, B. L. (2017). Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) - An Overview. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, 189(8), 419. doi: 10.1007/s10661-017-6138-8

National Cancer Institute. (n.d.). Substances in the Environment. Retrieved from https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/substances

Zhitkovich, A., & Costa, M. (2017). The Chemistry of Nickel. In A. Astruc (Ed.), Comprehensive Inorganic Chemistry II (Second Edition)

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