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My workplace is making me ill. What can I do and what does my employer have to do?

(12 Posts)
HoneyPablo Sat 24-Sep-11 11:02:05

I work in a nursery that has a problem with damp. This is caused by the rendering falling off the outside walls and the rain being able to penetrate the building.
The room where I spend most of the day has black mould growing in the corner. The managers and owners are aware of this and have said a builder is coming to have a look. They have been saying this for months.
The deputy manager has instructed us to place furniture in front of the mould so it can't be seen.
As well as being concerned about the effects of this on the children, I am now concerned the damp is making me ill.
This week I have experienced a tight feeling in my chest, difficulty getting my brreath when singing and reading stories and when dancing with the children. I have had coughing bouts and a tickly feeing in my throat, which has diminished when we go outside.
The tightness and coughing goes when I have been home for a couple of hours and comes on again when I return to work, usually within half an hour.
I am prone to getting bad coughs, but have never suffered from asthma. When I get a cough, it seems to be worse at night and lasts for weeks. This is totally different to anything I have had before.

So, my question is, what responsibilities does my employer have towards my health and what should they be doing?
Next week, I intend to visit the doctor and see if I can get anything to help with the tightness.
Should I write a letter to the owner (not based on site)? I have spoken to the manager, but she hasn't suggested anything.
I have asked them to seal the mould or wash it off, but nothing has happened yet.
Any advice?
And thanks for reading!

HoneyPablo Sat 24-Sep-11 11:38:03

Anyone?

StealthPolarBear Sat 24-Sep-11 11:40:54

shock

Grevling Sat 24-Sep-11 18:30:49

Employers have a duty of care towards you and visitors. I'd ask them to do a risk assessment and for a copy. At the very least even if it doesn't change anything you'll have a record that they knew about it at X date and this was said to be "safe" and if it isn't it'll help your case.

More at: http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Employment/HealthAndSafetyAtWork/DG_4016686

scaevola Sat 24-Sep-11 18:50:59

I think you should wait until you have a proper diagnosis. At the moment, you have nothing to connect your health problems to the mould.

If your doctor signs you off work, you'll probably find that focuses your employer's mind beautifully, especially if the doc provides a letter implicating mould.

KatieMiddleton Sat 24-Sep-11 19:18:43

Most employment law is covered by "civil" law. The one exception is Health and Safety law which is covered by criminal law.

Your employer has a legal duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 to ensure a safe working environment. One with damp and black mould is not a very healthy environment and they can't just ignore it. You are right to be concerned.

Ordinarily I would say to raise it informally with your employer but as you have already done this and their action has been to not just ignore the problem but to try to cover it up you really only have two options.

a) You raise a formal grievance against your employer regarding the poor working environment

b) You give the Health & Safety executive a ring and tip them off about the conditions in the nursery. Particularly the hiding of the damp behind furniture.

I would be inclined to do the latter because you can do it anonymously and there is not just your health at risk but also children's. I also think considering your employer's previous response raising a grievance will be ineffective.

I don't usually condone getting outside agencies involved because most things can be resolved informally but I think the concerns for your health and those of small children need to over ride everything else.

bran Sat 24-Sep-11 19:23:04

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

TheMonster Sat 24-Sep-11 19:25:35

I hope that isn't my son's nursery angry

KatieMiddleton Sat 24-Sep-11 19:41:59

Right I've looked it up. Although HSE are responsible for enforcing the law nurseries and playgroups are covered by the local authority link here.

I would not be tipping parents off for a very simple reason: less parents = less revenue = less jobs. Presumably the OP has to earn a living and if she can get the situation fixed without putting that at risk that'd be the best option.

I'd go straight to the local authority on this one but I too really hope it isn't my ds's nursery.

hairylights Sun 25-Sep-11 08:16:53

I'd go to the LA too.

HoneyPablo Sun 25-Sep-11 08:21:17

Thanks for the advice.
I don't want to make things awkward for myself by reporting them, but I do want it sorted quickly.
I think I will ask for a risk assessment, so there is some record. I will also visit the doctor so it is on my medical records.
I can't afford to be signed off work- we only get statutory sick pay and I have a mortgage to pay.

KatieMiddleton Sun 25-Sep-11 12:11:15

I think you'll make things awkward for yourself by asking for a risk assessment and going to GP. They should have done a risk assessment already that covers the working environment and therefore damp. A risk assessment is just a meaningless piece of paper unless acted upon.

I don't know much about local authorities but I do know the HSE are pretty good at working with people to fix problems.

I really think going to the LA will get the problem fixed will be quickest. You don't even have to give your real name and you have a duty of care to the children you look after.

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