A supermarket delivery driver who almost died after contracting Weil’s disease has condemned Tesco’s distribution centres claiming they are overrun with rats.
Darren Finn, 39, was rushed to hospital after complaining he had been suffering from debilitating flu-like symptoms for nearly a week.
The married father-of-two’s health continued to gradually worsen as baffled doctors fought to save his life when his body shut down due to kidney and liver failure. He was finally diagnosed with Weil’s disease more than a week later but managed to survive after hospital staff administered life-saving antibiotics.
Weil's disease is a rare but potentially fatal water-borne bacterial infection commonly linked with the urine of infected rats.
Darren, from Epping, London, believes he contracted the potentially fatal illness while working as a fresh distribution lorry driver for Tesco. He claims the supermarket giant’s distribution centre was constantly overrun with rats and staff members were not given adequate equipment to safeguard them from illness.
He said, “I have been to hell and back due to this illness. I honestly believed I was going to die when I was in hospital as I was on death’s door - even the doctors were extremely worried. Thankfully I managed to pull through but I am not the same as I was before and I doubt I’ll ever be back to what I was before.
“What has made this situation so much worse has been the attitude of Tesco and how they have denied any responsibility for my illness. The distribution centres and stores are teaming with vermin and it is the only place I have ever come in to contact with rat urine so there is no where else I could have got the disease.”
Darren had been employed as a delivery driver for Tesco for more than 10 years and was part of the company’s Harlow Transport Team.
He says he had been concerned about the sanitation of the company’s distribution centers, claiming they had consistently attracted a high number of rats due to available food waste.
On November 11th 2012 he began to suffer from flu-like symptoms which gradually become so severe he was taken to the Princess Alexandra Hospital, Harlow, for tests four days later. When doctors examined Darren they discovered he was suffering from kidney failure, jaundice and a loss of function in his liver but they were baffled by the cause of his illness.
It took more than a week before he was finally diagnosed with the potentially life-threatening condition Weil’s disease by which time he had grown so ill hospital staff feared he might die. However Darren was able to overcome the deadly disease after medics gave him a life-saving dose of antibiotics and turned his focus on finding out how he could have contracted the illness.
When doctors revealed the likely source of Weil’s disease is through infected rat urine Darren says he immediately knew he must have come into contact with it at work.
He said, “The state of the distribution centers is disgusting. There are rats and vermin all over the place, every time we arrive for a night shift you can see them scurrying around as they are attracted to the food. When you pick up the bags they are often wet and with so many rats running around I’m sure there is a lot of rat urine.
“The equipment Tesco give us is simply not sufficient, all we have are the overalls and a pair of cloth gloves that soak in all the moisture. They get soaking so if you have a cut or you rub your eye God knows what you’re going to end up with.
“I was one of the unlucky ones and it almost cost me my life but what made the situation so much worse was the attitude of Tesco.”
Darren, who has left Tesco and now works for DHL, instructed Slater and Gordon Lawyers to pursue a civil action against the supermarket giant. Tesco have denied liability for his illness.
He said, “Tesco are a massive company which I was employed by for many years yet as soon as this happened they just didn’t want to know. They didn’t seem to care how I was and denied all responsibility – I mean how else am I going to come into contact with rat urine? Tesco’s attitude was heart breaking so I had to leave.
“I decided to take legal action not just because I want them to answer for what they did to me but to also make sure no one else suffers as I have. Other employees are at risk.”
Slater and Gordon Personal Injury Solicitor Tracey Benson, who is representing Mr Finn said, “Darren has suffered a great deal of pain and distress from this condition which could have easily cost him his life.
“The pictures and video he has provided has shown there are a high number of rats scavenging in the recycling and food waste his team was tasked with moving, yet they were provided with insufficient safety equipment for the job.
“Employers have a responsibility to protect staff and provide them with the correct equipment to enjoy a safe working environment. If they fail to provide this they may be liable if an employee suffers injury or ill health.”
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