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Electrician killed in crane fall: company fined £1.5m

Electrician killed when he fell from an overhead crane.

A collapsed steelwork company has been fined £1.5m after an electrical contractor fell to his death.

Teesside Crown Court heard that 54-year-old Keith Poppleton was repairing wiring on an overhead gantry crane in October 2015. As he was walking along the gantry, he fell through an access panel, falling 8 metres to the ground, sustaining fatal injuries.

Cleveland Bridge UK of Darlington, who went into administration last year, owing more than £21m, was criticised for it’s “shocking health and safety failures” when it was discovered that no inspections or maintenance had been carried out on the crane since it was installed in 1983.

An HSE investigation also found that the access panel had not been replaced properly after being lifted some months previously to carry out maintenance work.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Jonathan Wills said: “This was an incident which could easily have been prevented had the company considered the risks associated with such access panels not being secured in place following maintenance work and general wear and tear.”

Craig Hassall QC, prosecuting, said: “Following the death the defending company replaced all of the removable access panels with permanent panels, welded into place within the recesses. It also introduced periodic inspections of the walkways, which had never been in place before.”

Mr Poppleton was a highly experienced electrical engineer and a college lecturer. His wife, Catherine said: “He was risk-averse and this respect for safety was something he practised as well as taught.”

Diane Parker, specialist personal injury solicitor commented: “The risks involved in working at height are well known. Any fall has the potential to be fatal, certainly so at this height.

“Cleveland Bridge was unbelievably lax with the safety of workers using their equipment and had allowed breaches to continue over several decades.”

Cleveland Bridge was found guilty of four offences relating to the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 and the Work at Height Regulations 2005.

The company had been fined £8,000 in 2003 after an employee fell from a tower scaffold.

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Dental technician electrocuted by faulty equipment

A dental technician was electrocuted by faulty equipment at work, leaving him with ligament damage to his fingers, and muscle damage to his hand and foot.

Mr Sullivan worked at a lab in Doncaster making plaster moulds for dentures. He and several of his colleagues had raised concerns with the owners of the lab about a Burco boiler that was directly underneath a bank of 3 double plug sockets.

Mr Sullivan said: “The fuse had blown a number of times, probably because water or steam was getting into the sockets above the boilers. Despite complaining to the owners and the fact that the power in the entire building went off each time, nothing was done.

“The weekend before my accident, some tiling work had been done on the back wall behind the boilers. A colleague and I had the job of putting the boilers back in place before we started work. The plug sockets above the boilers were also used for an extractor fan, a kettle and a radio.

“Once the boilers were back in place, I pushed the switch on the plug socket to turn it on. There was a big spark that hit my left ring finger. It travelled up my left arm, across my chest, down my body, right leg and then out of my right foot. This all happened in a matter of seconds. I was thrown back about 5ft. My colleague heard the noise and came to see what was happening.

“The owners called an electrician to have a look at the sockets but didn’t call for an ambulance or arrange any medical treatment for me. When I told my boss I was in agony, his response was “You only have 5 ½ hours to work before you can go home”.

The electrician found that there was only one earth wire running through all 3 sockets. He said it was likely the sockets were overloaded as each socket should have had its own earth wire. However, the electrician thought that it was strange all the power in the building went off and suggested that there might be a more serious underlying issue.

Mr Sullivan explained: “At first I thought I’d escaped serious injury, but I began to suffer increasing pain and discomfort and went to see my GP.

“I had blisters on my finger, soft tissue injuries to 2 fingers, and ligament and muscle damage to my left arm, left hand, right side of my chest, right leg and right foot. The burns were mainly on my fingers and right foot. The accident also aggravated an old back injury that I had suffered with since I was born.

“Even after treatment, I suffered with fatigue, nausea and flashbacks for many weeks. I couldn’t sleep properly and had ongoing back pain.

“I did try to carry on working for a couple of weeks after the accident, but the pain became too much and about 3 weeks later I had to go to A&E at Doncaster Infirmary. Once the wounds have healed properly, it’s likely that I will need skin grafts.

“Besides my lost wages, I haven’t been able to get back to playing football. Socialising with my family and friends and spending time with my partner have also been affected”.

Stephen Bradley-Watson, personal injury solicitor at Atherton Godfrey, commented: “Mr Sullivan has been left with tendon damage, muscle damage, lacerations, burns and blisters. He is unable to bend the last 3 fingers on his left hand because of the scarring and is unlikely to ever regain dexterity in those fingers.

“As is common in these cases, Mr Sullivan found that the cumulative effect of his injuries resulted in a complete change in his lifestyle, impacting on the overall quality of his life. He went from being employed and having a number of interests outside work, to being unable to work and very limited in what he could do.”

Mr Sullivan added: “My doctor has said that I was very lucky to be alive, but I might never be able to return to work. This has made me rather depressed, which in turn has caused a strain in my relationships”.

Mr Bradley-Watson added: “I am delighted we were able to recover a significant amount of compensation which will help Mr Sullivan get his life back on track.”

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Scottish lorry driver seriously injured in Birmingham

Rob* is a  Scottish long-distance lorry driver who suffered serious injuries while he was working in Birmingham. Because of the way the law operates, Rob’s personal injury claim had to be handled by a law firm in England as that was where the accident happened.

With the client’s kind permission, we can take a look at his case.

* The client’s name has been changed at his request.

In the early hours of 10 October 2015, Rob arrived at a depot in Sutton Coldfield where he was due to collect a load and take it up to Dundee.

After his lorry had been loaded, Rob moved his vehicle forward into the area where he could fit the safety strapping. As he was fixing the straps, another lorry,  that had also just been loaded, pulled alongside his vehicle, ready to also have its load strapped down.

Rob explained: “The other lorry juddered as it pulled up at the side of me. The next thing I knew, a loaded pallet, weighing about a ton, fell from the lorry and crushed me to the ground.”

Rob was rushed by ambulance to Birmingham hospital, where he was found to have four fractures to his spine, two fractures to his pelvis and internal and external bruising.

His injuries were so serious that he remained at the Birmingham hospital for 3 weeks and was in an induced coma for much of that time. He was then transferred to hospital in Dundee, where he had to stay for another 3 weeks or so.

Unsurprisingly, Rob’s injuries caused him considerable pain and discomfort. He couldn’t stand for more than about 10 minutes, which made him reliant on help from his family and friends.

He couldn’t work for over a year and when he did return to work, he could only manage part-time work initially.

Current position

Although Rob has recovered well and has been able to go back to full-time work, he can’t manage his job in the same way anymore. He needs a second man to accompany him to help lift, as he finds the work too tiring now. He also struggles to open the heavy curtain sides and finds hitching up the trailer difficult. These restrictions have left Rob with serious concerns about his future employability.

These accidents don’t just affect the injured. Rob’s family and friends have seen a big difference in him since the accident. They say he seems withdrawn and doesn’t enjoy being in groups anymore, where he used to be a very sociable man.

One relative commented: “It’s as though he’s in constant pain, he just can’t settle for any length of time when he’s out and about.

“His wife has had to cope with a huge emotional change and has had to take over most of the jobs in the home and garden.

“He can’t walk his dogs anymore and has had to give up his hobbies of fixing cars and DIY.”

Besides the social costs, Rob was also left counting the financial cost. He lost earnings, had to pay out for travelling to and from medical appointments and also had prescriptions to pay for.

After a lengthy legal battle, our personal injury solicitors were able to secure a six-figure out of court settlement to recover Rob’s losses and help him get his life back on track.

Getting compensation right

Part of the compensation award was in recognition of the fact that Rob’s employment prospects are now  limited because of the injuries. This is where the solicitor’s skill and experience are important because they need to be able to accurately calculate future losses as well as past losses.

Have you been injured at work?

If you have been injured in an accident at work, make sure you instruct a solicitor with workplace injury experience. If they miscalculate the compensation you are entitled to or settle for much less that you should have received, you will not be able to claim again.

You have one shot at claiming personal injury compensation – make sure you get it right.






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Accident at work forces career change

A woodworker was forced to make a career change after an accident at work left him with severe injuries.

Mr C, who was in his late 30’s at the time of the incident, sustained fractures and severe lacerations to four of his fingers when he was cutting timber with a table saw.

As he pushed the timber towards the blade, the timber kicked back forcing his left hand to come into contact with the rotating blade.

He was taken to hospital where he had surgery to amputate the badly damaged tip of his index finger, fuse his middle finger and stitch the lacerations to the other damaged fingers.

Mr C’s life was totally disrupted for the first 3 months after the accident at work. He was unable to go fishing or even do the DIY projects he enjoyed so much. He couldn’t drive for 6 months and had to rely on others to help out.

His injuries were so severe that he was unable to return to work for a year following the accident.

Once fit for work, he became so anxious about it happening again that he couldn’t face returning to his old job. He realised that he was going to have to change his career altogether, so took up a delivery job.

Fortunately, he has been able to settle into his new job, but he still has difficulty with all the basic things we take for granted, such as tying laces, doing up buckles, belts and buttons.

Shabana Ali, associate solicitor pursued a claim for compensation against Mr C’s employers. They denied liability saying they had given appropriate training to their employees and the machinery was functioning as it should.

However, after a lengthy legal battle and just days before the scheduled 3-day trial, Mr C’s employers agreed to pay compensation and an out of court settlement was reached.

See details about health and safety responsibilities on the HSE website.

If you have been injured at work see how we can help you recover compensation that will help you get your life back on track. Call and speak to our friendly professionals – 01302 320621 or email






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£30,000 compensation for care worker

Atherton Godfrey’s associate solicitor, Maria Houghton, has won £30,000 for a woman who worked in the care industry.

Maria’s client, Ms G, worked as an assistant at a care home in Coventry. At the time of the accident, Ms G, along with another member of staff, had been asked to transfer a resident from his chair to a wheelchair using a handling belt. As she was holding the resident, he fell heavily onto her right hand side. She took all of his weight on her arm. The resident had been undergoing physiotherapy and had been advised to use an electrical hoist to move himself, but physiotherapists had said that he should be encouraged to use a Zimmer frame and a handling belt.

A visit to the hospital the following day suggested that Ms G was suffering from a frozen shoulder. She was in severe pain, had a cortisone injection and had to take strong pain killers. She had to take six weeks’ sick leave before returning to work wearing a shoulder support.   A risk assessment was carried out and she was told to work as part of a pair with someone and to tell them if she couldn’t cope with people who needed more physical support.

Ms G then suffered a further accident, about nine months after the first one, when she was helping a resident who had Parkinson’s disease. The man fell whilst being helped to the toilet and pulled on Ms G’s shoulder, which caused acute pain and necessitated a further visit to hospital, where she was given morphine and told she had impingement syndrome and had torn her rota cuff. When she returned to work, she was transferred to lighter duties as a receptionist and had to take a pay cut. She was in low mood and upset that she couldn’t carry on with what she regarded as a satisfying occupation in which she had worked to gain experience over quite a long period of time.

Ms G worried about her future due to her inability to do the care work in which she has experience, her lack of transferable skills and her sickness record created by these two accidents. She contacted Atherton Godfrey to see if she could claim compensation for her accident. Maria pursued the care home for which Ms G worked, suggesting that it had, amongst other things, failed to:

  • provide a safe place to work and take reasonable care of our client
  • devise and implement a safe system of working
  • undertake proper risk assessments
  • comply with the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999
  • comply with the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992

The care home disputed liability and Maria issued proceedings. However, she was able to negotiate a settlement of £30,000 before the case went to trial.

Find out more about accidents at work on our web pages.

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Accidents at work: what should you do?

If you’ve had an accident at work, you may have sustained injuries that affect your day to day life and work, or have even stopped you from going to work. You may be left worrying what is going to happen in the future: was it your fault?, can you make a claim for compensation?, how are you going to cope financially whilst you are recovering?, and are you going to lose your job?.

Your employer has a duty to ensure that your health, safety and general welfare are protected whilst you are at work and there are certain laws, such as the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, which set out exactly what your employer must do to protect you. This Act imposes obligations on employers and the self-employed to ensure that their employees and others are not exposed to risks to their health or safety, as far as is reasonably practicable. It also obliges employers to comply with EU directives and authorises approved codes of practice in various trades.

Following the Wilsons & Clyde Coal Co. v English case in 1938, employers are also bound to exercise due care and skill in four particular areas. These are to have:

  • competent staff
  • adequate plant and equipment
  • a safe system of work
  • safe premises

If you have an accident at work, you can make a compensation claim for your injuries and any losses that result from those injuries, such as loss of earnings and medical treatment or physiotherapy.   Your employer will be liable for the accident, and therefore to pay you compensation, if it can be proved that the injury was reasonably foreseeable, or it happened as a direct consequence of a breach of your employer’s obligations. Your employer is also liable for the actions of all members of staff. Therefore, you can still pursue your employer for compensation if it can be established that an employee who is responsible for your accident or injury was acting in the course of their employment.

Many people who have accidents at work think that they cannot continue to work for their employer if they want to make a compensation claim. This is not true. Remember, your employer will have insurance against such accidents, and in most cases, it will be this insurer who makes the compensation payment. If you are still working for the employer where your accident occurred, you can make a claim and your employer cannot dismiss you, or prejudice you in any way. There are laws that protect you against this.

What should you do if you have been injured at work?

  1. Make sure the accident is reported in the accident book and make a note of the details and date of your accident.
  2. If you can, take photographs of the accident scene and your injuries.
  3. Take note of any witnesses to the accident.
  4. Make an appointment to see your GP or visit the hospital and make sure you give a full and detailed description of how you sustained the injuries.
  5. If you are unable to work due to your injuries, make sure that you send your employer sick notes on time and follow any procedures for reporting absences.
  6. Keep any correspondence you have with your employer about the accident.
  7. Keep any receipts for painkillers, travel or other expenses incurred because of your accident.
  8. Call Atherton Godfrey to discuss making a compensation claim for your work place accident or injury and any losses resulting from it.

You can find further information about health and safety in your workplace on the following web sites.

Author: Emily Woodhouse

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Casual approach to safety at Doncaster factory

It’s surprising how many accidents have to happen in the workplace before some employers take proper steps to protect their employees.

A recent case of ours sums this up quite well:

In the summer of 2016, Ms D was injured at work when a forklift truck reversed into her, knocking her to the ground. Fortunately she escaped with only a sprained ankle; her employers, however, were not so fortunate, we sued them and recovered over £1,000 compensation.

The incident became something of a joke amongst employees at the Doncaster factory with Ms D agreeing that she would shout to let the drivers know she was in the warehouse while the drivers agreed to beep their horn to acknowledge her presence.

Not really the best ‘safe system of work’ and sure enough, just eight months later, while Ms D was carrying out checks in the same warehouse, she was hit by a reversing forklift truck. On this occasion, the driver was heading for a roller door that was closing. Instead of stopping and pressing the button to open the door, he reversed back to pull the cord that could also be used to open it.

Ms D wasn’t so lucky this time; the impact left her with bruising, a fractured finger and four weeks off work.

The employer wasn’t so lucky either. We sued them again, but this time the compensation award was over £4,700 as, in addition to reflecting the pain and suffering Ms D endured, the payment also had to cover her loss of earnings and repay her travel and prescription expenses.

Workplace injuries can be particularly nasty. Hopefully, the employers in this case will install a correct safe system of work and avoid a more serious incident in the future.

Making sure that effective health and safety measures are in place is a legal obligation, not an optional extra.

Author: Gail Harris

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Lincolnshire man wins £20,000 after having feet crushed at work

A Lincolnshire factory worker was awarded £20,000 compensation after having his feet crushed in an accident at work.

The man was using a Pedestrian Pallet Truck (PPT) forklift to transport goods around the factory. As he was manoeuvering a load, he tripped on a protruding metal bar that was designed to protect the walls from damage by forklift trucks operating in the area.

In an attempt to brace himself, he grabbed hold of the tiller arm of the PPT, accidentally catching the reverse button.  With this, the PPT shot backwards, trapping both his feet between the edge of the machine and the protective bar.

Colleagues quickly freed him and took him to the first aid room where he had ice packs applied to his swollen feet, before going back to carry on with his job.

Unfortunately, his feet continued to swell and within a few hours the pain became so intense that he was taken to the Accident and Emergency department at the local hospital.

There, X-rays identified a fractured ankle on his left leg and a snapped heel on his right foot. He had a cast fitted to the left leg and a surgical boot fitted to the right.

These were serious injuries that left him unable to work for several months afterwards and involved repeated hospital visits for further x-rays and treatment for months afterwards.

The injuries meant that his mobility was severely affected; he was unable to drive and had to use a wheelchair for a couple of months.

Liability was hotly disputed by the defendant. However, we maintained that the accident resulted from a breach of duty by the employer, who had, amongst other things, failed to carry out proper risk assessments, failed to ensure that equipment stop controls were readily accessible and failed to ensure that equipment could not be accidently activated.

Janet Lee, partner and personal injury expert, negotiated with insurers reaching an out of court settlement recovering compensation for loss of earnings, expenses, pain, suffering and loss of amenities.

Author: Gail Harris