Hudgell Solicitors has secured a £95,000 damages settlement for a joiner after an unsafe circular saw he was using sliced completely through four of his fingers.
The saw, which had been modified at the company in Grimsby, North Lincolnshire, cut though the man’s hand, leading to him losing his little and ring fingers and needing to have his middle and forefingers reattached.
The nerves in his thumb and middle finger were left permanently numb, with the injuries leaving him with just 15% function of his hand and no longer able to work.
Legal action was launched by the employee through Hudgell Solicitors’ accident at work specialists, leading to insurers on behalf of the firm admitting primary liability for the incident happening.
It was alleged the machine had been made unsafe by modifying it and attaching it to another table, where wood would be pushed onto having gone through the blade.
On this occasion, the attached table had lifted, making the surface along which the wood was travelling to uneven. This caused the wood to flip to one side, resulting in the man’s hand slipping through to the blade.
He was rushed to Grimsby Hospital before being transferred to Hull Royal Infirmary, and was on the operating table for several hours of surgery.
‘I was reluctant to claim, but accident meant I could no longer work’
Speaking about the accident, the man, who had been in the joinery trade for almost three decades and asked not to be named, said he was a careful and experienced worker, who never thought such an accident would happen to him.
He said he had been reluctant to make a claim for compensation, but given the accident had left him unable to work, sought advice after speaking to his wife about the impact the injury would have on their future.
My colleagues couldn’t believe it had happened to me because I used to always tell them to respect the machinery. I always said ‘be careful because the saw has no respect for human limbs’.
I wish it hadn’t happened, but I can’t change it.
They had to cut off the damaged and remaining parts of the two fingers left and I was in theatre for between five and seven hours, reconnecting tendons and blood vessels.
Now I can’t even straighten my remaining fingers. I had no intention of retiring when the accident happened as I wasn’t of retirement age. I’ve always been active and I’m a determined person, but I couldn’t go back to work and retired last year.
I have never been one to think about taking legal action but my wife looked into it and we realised it was something we should do because I’m not able to work again. I don’t think I will ever get rid of the cold sensation in my hand and the phantom pains I have where my fingers used to be.
Work accident was ‘life-changing’
Recalling the accident, which happened in September 2013, the man said it had been ‘life-changing’.
I have never been one to panic, but as soon as it happened I put my other hand over the bleeding and turned to the lad I was working with, and told him I needed an ambulance quickly.
There were two blades going at about 2,000 revolutions a minute and they’ll go through your bones almost quicker than timber. They dragged the timber through in a split second with my hand on it.
We walked straight through the factory to the staff room and got a first aider. I was conscious of how serious it was. The first aider bandaged me up in the first instance and then the ambulance crew took over.
When the ambulance came, I had to step out into the fresh air and I felt really light-headed. Then, when I woke up after the surgery at Hull Royal Infirmary, I wondered what it would look like under the bandage.
I didn’t ask questions. You lay there wondering ‘what am I going to see’ when they take the bandages off and I was quietly dreading it.
It’s hard when you first see the extent of the problem you’ve been left with and it takes you time to get used to it because it’s life-changing. It’s been difficult, but I’m very good at overcoming problems and carrying on.
I went back to the hospital for regular check-ups after I was discharged and had physio for six to eight months, but I’ve not been able to get the movement fully back in my hand.
The man said that, despite having virtually no use of his hand, he has been determined to get on and enjoy life.
When I went home, I had to have new shoes and new clothes, as I couldn’t tie my laces or fasten things.
I keep busy though. I have three allotments running and I always have plenty to do. I was brought up in a family in the north of Scotland and I was one of 10 children. As soon as I was out of nappies, I was helping outside and I have always worked, so will always keep busy.
Compensation claim will help victim adapt to life changes
Solicitor Leanne Stephenson, a personal injury specialist at Hudgell Solicitors, said: “This injury has had a life-changing impact on the life of our client and his family.
Accidents will always happen, but employees should go to work in environments such as this knowing their employers have done all in the power to best protect them from possible injury.
In this case, it was our view that the modification of the machine through attaching a table to it, a failure to ensure the saw guard covered the blades sufficiently, and a failure to enforce adequate inspection or maintenance of the machinery, in which the deficiencies may have been detected before the accident, made them negligent and at fault.
We are glad that, despite suggesting some of the blame lay with our client, they have admitted responsibility and seen fit to agree damages that will help him and his wife adapt to life without the work income they had been used to.
The man said the support of Hudgell Solicitors had been second to none throughout.
The process was very good and the service from Hudgell Solicitors has been first class.