A worker who suffered multiple injuries when he was trapped under a half-tonne marine door has agreed to accept a six-figure damages settlement.
The man, 65, says the accident, caused when a marine hatch which was being suspended by a crane fell on him, ‘changed life forever’, leaving him unable to work again.
Now, after Hudgell Solicitors reached a suitable settlement with his former employers, Point Engineering in Hull, he says he has been ‘disgusted’ by the firm’s delay and failure to accept responsibility for his injuries.
The accident happened after he had secured and lifted the specialist pressurised marine hatch using a crane, ready for inspection.
However, moments later it came crashing down on him, caching him on his left side and fracturing his pelvic ring, left hip and causing a long-term back injury.
Aged 60 at the time, the experienced fabricator and engineer, who has asked not to be named, needed 10 days in hospital as he underwent surgery before spending nine weeks in a wheelchair after returning home.
“Initially, probably because of the shock, I didn’t feel pain, but it was agony when I was in hospital and it finished my working life, which I lived for in many ways”,” he said.
“The doctors told me I had been lucky because if it had been a few inches higher, I may have been killed. It has all had a big impact on my life. I used to enjoy going on long walks with my wife and now I need to use a walking stick when on my feet out of the house.
“It has affected us significantly. Life has not been the same since.”
Company was fined in court after Health and Safety prosecution
The company was fined £30,000 and ordered to pay £27,000 costs by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) two years after the accident, having pleaded guilty to breaching Health and Safety at Work Regulations.
However, when it came to a civil case in which he worker sought compensation for his injuries and lost earnings, the firm denied being to blame and instead claimed he had been totally at fault himself.
“I have been devastated by their approach and it has made me really angry,” said the man, of Hull, East Yorkshire.
“They had admitted breaking health and safety laws in relation to my accident when prosecuted by the HSE, but when it came to compensating me they have fought it all the way for five years and tried to put the blame on me.
“In that time I have had to struggle without earning for close to five years, knowing there was a risk that I may never recover that loss.
“I worked there for 11 years and work was a huge part of my life. I loved it and in all that time I think I had one day off sick. Then, when this happened, they just wiped their hands of me.”
Worker turned for legal support to challenge firm’s health and safety
Realising he was being held responsible by the firm, the man turned to Hudgell Solicitors to fight his case.
“I’d done this kind of inspection many times over the years and had always attached the marine hatch to the crane in the same way using the equipment provided. However, they basically said I had gone against usual practice in what I did and against what was advised, but that was nonsense,” he said.
“Had they apologised and been sympathetic and supportive of me after the accident, I wouldn’t have sought legal advice. It was only because I was angry that I did and I could feel they were blaming me.
“It soon started to feel like a whitewash as I was being blamed for not doing the job right. On that day I did what I had done all the time, in the same way. They were always happy with that, until it went wrong.”
As part of the case, Senior Solicitor Samuel McFadyen, a specialist in cases involving workplace accidents and serious injury at Hudgell Solicitors, alleged a lack of training in the specific procedure, failure to carry out specific risk assessments and failure to devise a standard and accepted safe procedure for the job,
Mr McFadyen said: “The defendant’s case was that our client was a highly experienced and trained employee who made a serious error against company policy, but he was not suitably qualified or trained and was not given the information he needed to be able to do it safely.
“The fact he was experienced and had done similar procedures on many previous occasions did not make him fully qualified and fully trained. It was just what his employer expected him to do without suitable and sufficient risk assessments.
“A safe system of work should have been implemented and recorded in writing, but it wasn’t.
“This was a bespoke product, different to any before and made specifically for the customer, yet our client had not been told its weight and had been given no information as to the correct lifting points or specifically how to lift this hatch.
“This was a perfect example of how many employers allow their staff to take dangerous risks in their day to day jobs, without appropriate assessments and adequate safety measures in place.
“The accident was a combination of many oversights, assumptions and lack of measures to reduce risk of serious injury. He suffered very serious injuries, and in some ways was fortunate that they were not life-threatening.”
With Point Engineering still refusing to admit liability for the accident and injuries, Hudgell Solicitors issued court proceedings against the firm.
A three day trial was listed for 28th January 2019, but that was eventually avoided when a settlement was reached between the legal teams in December 2018.
“I’m glad it is all settled now and hope to put it all behind me, but I would have never reached this point without legal support,” said the worker.