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February 17th 2021

Personal Injury

£100,000 compensation for worker who suffered long-term shoulder injury when lifting heavy box from production line

Nicola Bailey-Gibbs

Nicola Bailey-Gibbs

Associate, Criminal Injuries and Civil Liberties

£100,000 compensation for worker who suffered long-term shoulder injury when lifting heavy box from production line

A warehouse operative has been awarded £100,000 damages after suffering a lifelong injury to his shoulder at work.

A warehouse operative has been awarded £100,000 damages after suffering a lifelong injury to his shoulder at work.

The man, who was 56 at the time of the accident, suffered the injury when lifting a box of products off a conveyor belt, having been instructed to do so because the box had become broken as it made its way along the production line.

Due to its weight, and the fact he had to lift it over a guard rail which was between waist and shoulder height to remove it from the running line, he wrenched his shoulder and perforated his pectoral muscle, an injury which has had a huge impact on his life since and doctors say cannot be fully repaired.

The man was represented by Hudgell Solicitors in a claim for damages, resulting in a £100,000 compensation settlement being offered and accepted. He has remained out of work since the accident, which happened four years ago.

As part of the legal claim it was alleged the firm had breached its duty of care, and failed to meet manual handling regulations to protect workers from potential injury.

Worker left physically unable to work in manual roles

The settlement has come after a difficult four years for the man, now 59, who says he felt let down by his employer as they argued he was partly to blame.

“It has been a tough few years since this happened and I do feel I was badly let down as, at the end of the day, I was just doing my job and I did as instructed,” he said.

“We’d previously asked for the guard to be lowered to make it easier to reach the boxes when checking them. We’d also previously asked to have our own stop button for the line, but they never put one in place.

“On this particular day there was one box coming along which had been caught up in the machinery on its way down the line and it was damaged. Two senior colleagues called out to me, from about 20 feet away, for me to quickly grab the box off the line.

“I reached over and did as I had been told. As I lifted the box I felt a sharp, agonising pain in my shoulder, which immediately swelled up and I was sent to see the first-aider. I knew immediately I’d done some pretty serious damage.

“I was just doing as I was told. The two people who ordered me to take it off the line were near to where the main stop button for all production lines was, but they didn’t press the button, most likely because the lines are timed and it would have slowed production.”

Despite months of seeing specialists and having scans, the man has been told nothing can be done to repair the damaged muscle. Still to this day he is unable to lift heavy objects and he struggles driving a car.

The injury ultimately led to him being laid off from work, after a year’s absence, due to no suitable alternative roles being available to him.

“I’m a reasonable person and I said to the company that I’d be happy to take on another role without lifting duties. I tried to carry on but my doctor said I shouldn’t be working as I was still doing too much manually and he signed me off sick,” he said.

“I then had no contact at all from the company for 12 months until a new HR manager contacted me but the only alternative I was offered involved relocating, which wasn’t really an option as I can no longer drive far, or jobs involving computers. They just weren’t suitable.

“I’ve only ever done jobs such as manual work or security so there was no option really and my employment was terminated. It was only because I felt so poorly treated that I decided to start a legal claim. If they’d looked after me I don’t think I would have considered the legal route.”

Legal claim highlighted failure of employer to protect worker from harm

The man was supported by Associate Solicitor Nicola Bailey-Gibbs, part of the accident at work claims team at Hudgell Solicitors, who secured him the £100,000 damages, which was offered without the need to go to a trial.

She alleged the company had failed to meet regulations in exposing the worker to risk of injury and failing to put mechanical processes in place for the safe removal of heavy boxes from the production line.

Legal representatives acting on behalf of the business admitted primary liability for the accident and eventually offered the £100,000 damages settlement despite claiming the man had contributed to the injury himself by failing to follow his training.

They also claimed he could have stopped the conveyor himself and didn’t use the manual handling techniques he had been taught.

Mrs Bailey-Gibbs said: “Our client was given a direct order to lift the box from the conveyor, resulting in his injury. His senior colleagues who instructed him to lift the box would have known, or should have known this was not safe and would have put him at risk of an injury. In this case it may have seemed quite an innocuous breach of procedures, but it has resulted in a life-affecting injury.

“He has been severely affected on the labour market as he only has experience in labour and security positions, which he can no longer do. He cannot lift any weight on that side and can only drive very short distances.

“Given he is now in his late 50’s he has found it a struggle to find alternative employment, his injuries have left him massively disadvantaged on the labour market and he will need significant retraining if he is to find alternative employment; all this at a time when more people than ever are battling for a limited number of jobs.

“His life away from work has been affected too as he can no longer enjoy hobbies such as cycling and golf and is unable to do gardening and jobs around the home, with his wife now having to do the majority of the domestic chores, shopping and driving. All of this of course has had a psychological impact too.

“We were pleased to be able to agree this substantial settlement without the need to go to trial, and we feel it is a settlement which reflects the employer’s failings, and the impact on our client’s life.”

‘No win no fee offer gave me chance to fight for justice’

The man says he was delighted with the support provided by Hudgell Solicitors.

“I’ve been really pleased with how Hudgells have helped me. I couldn’t have afforded to pay legal fees up front, especially given the situation I had been left in financially, so to be able to choose the no win no fee option was very helpful as it gave me the chance to fight my case for justice,” said the man.

“We’ve spent the past four years having to watch the pennies as I have been on job seekers allowance and we’ve been having to live off that and my wife’s wage as a nurse.

“We are not extravagant spenders anyway, but it has been a worry. This payment offers some security and is effectively my pension as it has been a real struggle to find work.”

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