Hudgell Solicitors have secured a £100,000 damages settlement for a telecoms engineer who lost his right eye after an accident installing fibre optic cabling at work.
The 18-year-old employee had been working for Beverley-based Cumberland Comms Ltd when the accident happened, preparing the cabling at a residential property to enable it to access ultra-fast broadband internet services.
He was not wearing any protective eyewear at the time.
The man was represented by Hudgell Solicitors in seeking compensation for his injury, alleging that his employers had breached Protective Personal Equipment at Work Regulations, which are in place to ensure employee safety.
Now, insurers acting on behalf of the Beverley firm, which was installing the cabling to provide Hull-based KCOM’s Internet services, have admitted liability for the accident and settled the case out of court.
The man, who does not wish to be named, said the accident, which happened in August 2016, had a ‘hugely life-changing’ impact and had left him feeling angry about how he was put at risk.
“I was 18 at the time and just getting on with my job, so I didn’t really question what I was doing and the risks involved,” he said.
“We’d be contracted to install the fibre cabling which is used for the KCOM internet services and it was something the firm did a lot of. I was never given any protection for my eyes. On this particular day I was pulling the fibre cabling from the drum and it just suddenly flipped up and struck me in the eye.
“The pain was agonising and I feared immediately that I would lose my eye. The pain was unbearable. I’ve never felt anything like it.”
The man was taken to Hull Royal Infirmary, where he remained for a number of days, but despite the attempts of specialists the vision in his right eye was not able to be saved. Due to the injury caused and pain, the eye had to be removed.
Now aged 21 and a father, the man says losing his eye was difficult to adjust to both physically and emotionally.
“It has had a massive impact on my life. I had a period of time after I had it removed where I had nothing in its place, until I had my glass eye fitted.
“That was difficult as you feel different and you know you don’t look right. There was also the impact of being unable to work. I was not working for around a year and a half after the accident and that had a big impact financially. Everything just felt a struggle.”
Compensation has brought financial stability for family
Three years on and now with his damages settlement, the man is back in work for a different business as a labourer and has used his compensation to buy a house for his family with a mortgage. He says he is feeling positive after all he has been through.
“I was at a low for quite some time but when I consider where I am now, I have come a long way and the money I’ve received has really helped. It has given me some financial stability and I can build my life again,” he said.
“Looking back, it was disgusting that I was put at risk and a disgrace that workers were exposed to danger in that way. I didn’t see the danger myself at the time and I was just focussed on getting the job done, like many workers do.
“People just get the job done but their employers should be doing all they need to do to protect them from risk.
“I’m very aware of the dangers now at work and if I was asked to do anything like that without full protection I wouldn’t. My new employers are brilliant though and everything is provided. That is how it should be.”
Solicitor says injury could have been avoided by using ‘most basic’ safety equipment
Hull-based solicitor Leanne Stephenson, of Hudgell Solicitors, led the personal injury case for the worker.
She said: “As with many cases of work accidents which result in serious, life-changing injury, this was an incident which could have been easily avoided with the use of the most basic safety equipment. That’s what make cases like this so frustrating, but also so common.
“Where there is any form of danger to the eyes, it must be ensured that workers wear protective goggles at all times. The responsibility is with the employer to ensure the rules are in place, and that they are followed without fail.
“It is known that there is always the danger of injury from glass shards when handling and installing fibre optic cabling, and the law is very clear that it is an employers’ responsibility to ensure employees are not exposed to foreseeable risks or injury.
“Measures must be in place to ensure the working environment is safe, and that safe and protective equipment is used.
“It was our case that not only was this employee not given suitable protective eye protection, but also had not been specifically trained and instructed for the job he was doing. Added to that he was not being supervised either to ensure the task was being completed safely. These allegations were not denied.
“Had the correct safety procedures and measures been in place and followed, this injury would not have been suffered.”