Factory bans blind worker's guide dog

EXCLUSIVEBy Ted JeoryA BLIND man fears he may have to give up his job after factory bosses banned his guide dog from the workplace.Peter White said he could not go back to work today after his guide dog started showing signs of distress at being shut in a room for almost eight hours a day at Witham perfume manufacturers Beautimatic International Ltd.

EXCLUSIVE

By Ted Jeory

A BLIND man fears he may have to give up his job after factory bosses banned his guide dog from the workplace.

Peter White said he could not go back to work today after his guide dog started showing signs of distress at being shut in a room for almost eight hours a day at Witham perfume manufacturers Beautimatic International Ltd.


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His employers – whose director, Barry Rughani's wife has a canine phobia – said Mr White needed to find another dog "more suited" to the room because it would not allow any animal in the factory "for health and safety reasons".

Mr White, who has been with the Queen's Award-winning company for 10 years and works as a bulk mixing supervisor at the factory, was registered blind in 1999 because of a degenerative eye condition.

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The 59-year-old said he told his line manager in May last year that his application for a dog been accepted by The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association and insisted no objections had been raised at the time.

The charity told Mr White, from Witham, in December that he had been allocated a guide dog, Chipps, and added they needed time to train together.

Mr White claimed he had tried to take Chipps to the factory in January to discuss accommodation, but alleged they had been refused entry because Mr Rughani had not wanted a dog in the building.

A few days later the guide dogs charity visited the site and concluded it had no major health and safety concerns.

It identified an interior office suitable for Chipps to stay in during the daytime, but claimed that had been overruled by the directors because it was a busy area and the dog could create risks to other employees.

A compromise was reached, in which Chipps would have to stay in a former drivers' rest room, which is heated and attached to the main building, but accessible only from the outside.

In that way, Mrs Rughani would not risk coming into contact with him. However, apart from a short period at lunchtime, Chipps would be alone from 9am to 5.30pm.

The charity monitored the dog's condition over a three-week period and decided on Friday it had become so anxious and distressed by the lack of human contact that Chipps was beginning to ignore its training and would be, therefore, unable to return to the factory

Mr White, a father-of-two, said last night: "I've been loyal to the company for 10 years. Last Wednesday, off my own back, I got in at 6am to make an extra batch. My job is now in jeopardy."

In tears, he added: "The difference this dog has made to my life – it's changed everything. I feel that I've been treated appallingly."

Mr Rughani confirmed his wife, who has been at the company for 20 years, was scared of dogs, but added: "We've invested thousands on Peter – we even offered to build a kennel for his dog.

"He comes into contact with hazardous chemicals and so the dog can't come into the factory. Peter manages to get around unaided anyway.

"I don't understand why they didn't carry out a proper assessment. The dog obviously suffers problems, I think they just need to get him another one."

A spokeswoman for The Guide Dogs for the Blind said it was not taking Chipps away, but added: "We just cannot let him back in there and we would not put another dog in that situation.

"It's incumbent on the company to find suitable accommodation. All we ask is that Beautimatic show the same concern to Peter as it does for its employee with the phobia. Around 85% of visually impaired people are unemployed – we don't want Peter to be part of that."

ted.jeory@ eadt.co.uk

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