Fire fighter from Wells exposed to dangerous fumes at Exeter Airport

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By abbie_wells | Wednesday, September 12, 2012, 12:41

A fire fighter from Wells has received £15,000 compensation after being exposed to dangerous fumes at work.

Leigh Payne, a 40-year-old fire fighter for Exeter and Devon Airport, was diagnosed with asthma in 2010. Medical professionals have decided that this was a result of exposure to hazardous red diesel fumes while he was unloading post and baggage from planes.

Mr Payne, who lives in Wells, never suffered from breathing difficulties before 2007 and in 2010 the condition became so bad he was forced to take time off work.

The condition has now affected him for five years.

He worked at the airport for 13 years and was regularly exposed to dangerous fumes pumped out from vehicles, including ground power units and diesel power tugs which move baggage trailers. The airport also brought in hydraulic platforms in 2007 which runs on diesel.

Mr Payne would often be exposed to these fumes for two or more hours when he was working in the cargo holds of planes removing post and baggage. This is where the fumes would have been most intense.

He would be exposed to the fumes whilst walking around airside but more intensely when he was working in the cargo holds of the planes removing bags of post and other baggage. The fumes were not filtered and would collect in the hold.

On days when there was little wind he would be working for one or two hours in an atmosphere of thick diesel fumes.

Mr Payne said: "I had no memory of suffering with asthma before and was convinced that my symptoms were being caused by the exposure to fumes.

"It's frustrating that my health has now been permanently affected by my employer's lack of consideration or care of the dangers these fumes were causing to me and my workmates.

"I know that simple measures such as exhaust ducting could have been taken to avoid our exposure."

Mr Payne's condition became so bad that in January 2010 he needed to take time off work and in March 2010 he was diagnosed with occupational asthma.

Exeter and Devon Airport initially denied that the fumes were hazardous but after receiving evidence, admitted liability and settled the claim out of court.

The Airport still employ Mr Payne but he is on restricted duties.

Mr Payne was able to gain £15,000 compensation through the help and support of UNISON.

Joanne Kaye, head of Unison in the South West said: "The airport could and should have put in place measures to make sure that Mr Payne and his colleagues were protected from these noxious fumes.

"We hope that they now take a look at their health and safety procedures to make sure all the airport's employees are safe at work."

Kevin Digby from Thompsons Solicitors who took the case for UNISON added: "Exeter and Devon Airport had serious shortcomings in its health and safety procedures which meant our client was exposed to dangerous fumes.

"He should never have been put in a position where he developed asthma."

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