UNISON step in to help Environment Agency worker win negligence claim

July 5, 2013

A river operative from Bath who had worked for the Environment Agency for over a decade has won in excess of £5,000 compensation a year and a half after the event with the help of UNISON.

Richard Toghill, who was charged with keeping a stretch of the River Avon debris-free, lost the top of the middle finger of his left hand when an uncalibrated wood chipping machine was inadvertently rotated.

The 44 year old was trying to remove a blockage that should never have been allowed to happen, according to supporting evidence presented by the personal injury solicitors appointed by UNISON on behalf of Mr Toghill.

Poorly-maintained tool responsible for accident circumstances

Whilst conducting his Environment Agency duties, which include keeping the stretch of the Avon between Devizes and Sharpness Dock clear of flotsam, jetsam and natural foliage that would otherwise impede boaters, Mr Toghill had to try to remove a blockage in his wood chipping machinery by hand.

The only way he could facilitate this, given that the machine hadn’t been suitably calibrated, was to manually rotate the flywheel.

As he did this with his right hand, his left hand naturally came into contact with the blades, one of which took the end of his finger clean off.

Had the wood chipper been properly calibrated, it was ruled, the blockage could not have happened, hence Mr Toghill would have had no reason to get his hands so close to the working part of the cutting tool as he did.

On that basis, the personal injury compensation was awarded to the tune of £5,000 plus for a lifelong injury that was preventable.

The concern moving forward is that this type of injury is more likely to happen, rather than less.

UNISON warn of more personal injuries to come

The reduction in ‘red tape’, cited by Joanne Kaye of UNISON as the reasoning behind the theory that this type of injury will become more commonplace, is a new rule stating that employers are no longer automatically responsible for injuries that occur to workers in their employ.

Even though this particular personal injury case was proven beyond doubt, the pre-existing health and safety guidelines that will be removed through the government’s new initiative may well encourage employers to cut corners with maintenance knowing that the blame for injury is no longer guaranteed to land at their door.

Kaye went on to underline that the role of unions is far from dead. Rather, with health and safety law ‘red tape’ being removed, it’s more imperative than ever for employees to have union representation in cases like Mr Toghill’s to offer support and advice otherwise unavailable.

Large corporations may well flout that opportunity if a person receives a personal injury that could be construed as borderline and the victim has no such affiliation to call upon.

If you’ve suffered an injury at work and think that you may be being coerced not to take the matter further by your employees, call us free on 0151 632 2213, now.

In most cases, we’ll know instantly whether you have a rightful claim to compensation or whether your employer may have a case for their defence.

Just because some red tape has been removed doesn’t give your employer the right to abandon health and safety altogether.