Batley father-of-two speaks out on life-changing illness

A Batley dad is calling for tighter safety standards when working with silica to prevent others from suffering in the way he has.

Wednesday, 8th January 2020, 12:01 pm
Updated Wednesday, 8th January 2020, 12:01 pm

In 2014, David Wood, 64, from Batley was diagnosed with silicosis - a long-term condition caused by inhaling large amounts of crystalline silica dust, usually over many years. This leads to hardening and scarring of the lungs, as well as a loss of lung function.

Following the diagnosis, he approached a team of specialist workplace illness lawyers at national firm Irwin Mitchell to help him discover how he came into contact with the material and developed the illness.

After identifying his exposure to the silica dust most likely took place during his time working for Pawson Brothers Limited at Britannia Quarries in Leeds, D & P Bradley in Keighley and S Dulay trading as M&M Yorkshire Stone Products in Bingley, the legal experts were successful in securing a six-figure settlement which ensures that should he be diagnosed with cancer or more severe symptoms, the matter can be returned to court.

David Wood back in 1974, left and in the present day

Mr Wood's partner is Margaret Naylor, 59, and he has two children and five grandchildren. He began working in the quarrying industry in 1971 at the age of 16.

He said: “It has had such a huge impact on my life. I can’t do a lot of the things I used to enjoy, like fishing, playing snooker and walking in the Fells, as they are just too much for me now.

“I am short of breath a lot of the time; even just walking a short distance is a struggle. I can’t manage much around the home anymore either, so Margaret is run off her feet looking after us both. She devotes all of her time to me and will only leave the house to go to the shops or supermarket.”

“I had to retire in 2014 after my diagnosis and I have found it incredibly hard coming to terms with the fact that I can no longer work as I used to really enjoy it. Retirement is not something that I ever considered as stone masonry was always in demand. I hoped to go on for a lot longer.

“I also miss my friends at work and when I do see anyone, I find it awkward having to explain my illness.

“I am so grateful to have my family by my side, but I know they found it upsetting when I was told about my illness. While nothing can turn back the clock, I am grateful to know that I will receive the care I need and there is also the possibility of future treatment.

“All I can hope for now is that stricter safety measures are put in place for people working with silica, as I wouldn’t want anyone else to suffer the way I have.”

Mr Wood's work for Pawson Brothers started with helping to cut stone slabs into long strips of stone. He recalled how there was a “constant sparkling haze of dust” in the shed that he worked in. Later he became a stonemason using chisels and, later, air-chisels and grinders.

He went to work for D & P Bradley in the early 1990s until the early 2000s. By this time the use of machines was on the rise and David described it as “like working in a fog.” The workers were provided with a basic dust mask, but this was not adequate for the duties they were carrying out and would clog up with dust.

Mr Wood worked for S Dulay in the 2000s. The company made all forms of architectural masonry, and David operated a saw to cut stone slabs. He described how the saw “created an extraordinary amount of dust”, adding “it was as though a cloud of dust was permanently around me.”

In Christmas 2013, David developed a chest infection which wouldn’t clear up. The following May, he saw a chest specialist and was diagnosed with silicosis.

Mr Wood has now joined with his legal team in calling for tighter safety standards when working with silica to prevent others from suffering in the way he has.

This comes as the Health and Safety Executive describes silica as “the biggest risk to construction workers after asbestos” with more than 500 construction workers dying in 2005 following exposure to silica dust.

Ian Toft, the partner and workplace illness expert at Irwin Mitchell’s Leeds office who represents David, said: “This settlement for David is hugely important in ensuring that he will receive the treatment required to manage his illness.

“In addition, the fact that the case can be revisited at court if David develops illness in the future will undoubtedly provide him with some peace of mind.

“Through our work we see many people who go on to suffer illness years after undertaking industrial work, and we are happy to have been able to help David get the support he needs at this difficult time.

“However, there still remains a need for tighter safety standards regarding silica and we are calling for these to be implemented sooner rather than later.”