PENSIONER Aubrey Akers has slammed the working conditions he dealt with on a daily basis for 17 years at British Rail’s Swindon works which left him virtually deaf.
The 72-year-old, of Rosemary Close, Haydon Wick, reached an out of court settlement with British Rail for £8,500 compensation for the damage to his health as a result of those working conditions.
Aubrey joined the organisation in 1956 after he left school, before being made redundant in 1973, along with 500 colleagues.
He worked in several different parts of the depot and in some places more than 300 machines were operating at once. In other areas, he had to contend with constant banging from riveting, hammering and the stripping of locomotives.
“It was bad in there. It was a terrible and noisy environment.
“All around the building shop had poor conditions,” he said.
Asked if he felt British Rail had neglected their employees, Aubrey said: “Absolutely. It was horrible, especially the atmosphere in there. The fumes in the air created a haze.
“Breathing in all of that stuff and the noise factor made it nasty.
“When you walked out of there your ears were ringing for days.”
Aubrey, who lived in Morris Street, Rodbourne, during that period in his life, has no regrets about working with British Rail. He said there were too few choices for young men in those days.
“In those days, as a 15-year-old apprentice, there was only British Rail or Garrard’s record players,” he said.
“These days you have got such a wide variety of jobs. I haven’t regretted what I have done, but, thinking back, it was bad.
“You wouldn’t be allowed to work in those conditions now, but you just accepted it because money was the thing back then, as soon as you started earning you didn’t kick up a fuss.”
After being made redundant in 1973, Aubrey went on to work in crane assembly with a firm near South Marston, before moving on to Cheltenham and working with a crane hire firm.
His solicitor, Brigitte Chandler, a partner at Swindon firm Charles Lucas & Marshall said other former British Rail employees will have been affected by the constant noise.
“Mr Akers was exposed to continuous and excessive noise caused by heavy machinery,” she said. “Throughout his employment, British Rail never provided him with ear defenders or warned him about the dangers of excessive noise – despite the fact that from 1955 they had been aware of the dangers of noise.”
Aubrey now struggles to hear the television, or if he is in a group of people, it becomes a challenge to keep on top of what’s going on.
“When I began to struggle hearing the television I wanted to push for compensation,” he said. “It took a long, long time, but I’m very happy with the outcome.”