Case Study – Factory worker whose hand was crushed in machinery receives £100k compensation
A man who has been left unable to find work after his hand was crushed in a factory machine says he feels angry towards his former employers for the injury he suffered, and the impact it has had on his life.
David Warburton, 49, was left unable to use his left hand after it became trapped in a furnace machine at Warrington-based Avdel Metal Finishing.
He had worked for the firm for 10 years prior to the accident, and remained employed there for a further two years in a different role afterwards. However, he was then told no jobs were suitable for him due to him having ‘capability problems’, and he was made redundant.
Mr Warburton, who was a deputy manager at the firm, sought legal advice from accident at work specialists Hudgell Solicitors, resulting in a £100,000 damages settlement being offered to him by the firm.
Although not formally admitting being liable, the compensation offer was made on the basis of them accepting 85 per cent of the responsibility for the injury he suffered.
The accident happened when Mr Warburton, who is left-handed, was called to help by his junior colleague as a furnace machine he was operating, but had not been trained in using, had jammed.
Mr Warburton said it was common practice for either he or the shift manager to repair machine faults if no fitters were available, despite not having had any training in machinery repair.
On this occasion, he said the machine had become jammed and as no fitter was on site, he looked to repair it himself. The machine had no guard in place, and a spring was missing.
His hand became jammed in the machine for 20 minutes, and he was only freed when a co-worker dismantled the machine.
As part of the legal case, it was claimed the company had been negligent and in breach of its duty of careby failing to ensure equipment was suitable for purpose. It also faced allegations of failing to ensure work equipment was maintained and inspected at regular intervals, and failing to ensure all persons who used work equipment had received adequate training.
“My hand was covered in blood. Initially it was extremely painful, but then it became numb and I thought my fingers had been severed,” said Mr Warburton, recalling the accident.
“I was in extreme shock. The next thing I remember is being in a taxi with the First Aider.”
Mr Warburton was taken to Accident and Emergency at Warrington Hospital, where he was scanned and told he had a severed nerve and tendon in his index finger, and a ruptured tendon in his middle finger.
He underwent surgery to repair the tendons and nerves days after the accident, which happened in March 2011, and in August that year he returned to work on light duties.
He said: “I was unable to sleep comfortably for two months, every time I rolled onto my hand I was woken up. I had no use of my left hand and my wife had to cut up my food, assist me with bathing and dressing and do the cooking and household chores.”
Mr Warburton had cortisone injections, and further surgery in October 2013, which was unsuccessful, and he said his hand still causes him a lot of pain today.
He has since been told there is nothing further that can be done medically to restore full use of his hand, and he has been left with difficulties with day-to-day activities such as tying shoe laces, opening jars or doing buttons, he has reduced grip strength, and is restricted on lifting heavy objects or driving for long periods.
Mr Warburton has also been diagnosed with depression from the trauma of his injury and also suffered the breakdown of his marriage, which he says was partly caused by stress related to the impact the accident had on his life.
Since being made redundant he has been unable to get another job, and he added: “I feel very bitter about what has happened. It is horrible being out of work, I have never been out of work since leaving school.
“I now have money in the bank but I don’t want to spend it while I am not working, so I am not going out or socialising with my friends.
“I have trouble driving, and every day things such as shaving. I get by, but it’s difficult.”
Vicky Houghton, a specialist solicitor dealing with accident at work claims at Hudgell Solicitors, said: “There were obvious concerns in this case about the practices in place at the company with regards to the maintenance of machinery and the training practices in place to protect employees from injury.
“Too often we see examples of companies cutting corners and allowing their staff to put themselves at risk of serious injury.
“Workers will often go beyond the call of duty to make sure the job gets done and to ensure downtime is reduced, but it is the responsibility of employers to ensure only fully-trained staff carry out repairs, that machinery is always maintained and kept fit for purpose, and the proper, agreed procedures are followed.
“This accident had a huge impact on Mr Warburton’s life, so much so that he has struggled to find employment since, a situation he has struggled to adapt to.
“We are glad that our support helped secure Mr Warburton substantial damages which reflect his pain, suffering, and loss, since he suffered the accident.”
A Guest post by Hudgell Solictors