Father-Of-Three Paralysed At Work Looks To Future After Securing Settlement

Lawyers Help Secure Funds To Help With Home Adaptations And Specialist Equipment


A former joiner paralysed in a devastating work accident on a Cambridgeshire building site has spoken of his renewed hope for the future, after his expert lawyers secured a seven-figure settlement to help fund much needed home adaptations and ongoing rehabilitation from his injuries.

Christopher Holmes, 34, suffered a devastating spinal injury when he was knocked unconscious by an eight-foot piece of plyboard, which travelled 18 metres after being lifted into the air by a strong gust of wind as he worked on the roof of Longsands College in Huntingdon in poor weather conditions.

The incident in November 2007 left the father-of-three with no function in his fingers or legs and, while his shoulders and elbows have made a partial recovery, he now requires specialist 24-hour care.

With the help of workplace injury specialists at Irwin Mitchell, it has been confirmed that Christopher will receive secure vital funds to help him continue his rehabilitation and pay for aids and equipment to help him live his life and ensure that he can look forward to a brighter future with his family. The settlement will also help with adaptations to make his home more suitable for him to live as independently as possible.

The companies involved, A S Joinery and R G Carter, are now in discussions related to how the payout will be provided.

David Urpeth, the national head of workplace injury who acted on behalf of Christopher and his family, said: “I am delighted to have been able to help Chris access much needed funds to help improve his quality of life and that of his family

“While we have only received an admission of liability from R G Carter, both contractors are considering how the funds to help him get the best out of life following the awful events four years ago will be provided.

“However, this is about more than the money – it is about highlighting how safety failing can have shocking consequences and ensuring that lessons are learned.

“While we have been able to ensure he can access the specialist equipment he needs and the ongoing rehabilitation from injury, it is vital that employers in the construction industry learn lessons from incidents like this and ensure that the same terrible problems are prevented.”

Self-employed joiner Christopher, from Peterborough, was engaged by A S Joinery – which in turn was sub-contracted by R G Carter – to cut timber rafters and joists and then fit them to the new roof at Longsands College when the accident occurred. His work also involved laying insulation between the rafters and then putting plyboard into position.

He recalls: “The weather was absolutely awful on the day I was hit and the rain and wind really picked up. I was asked to stay on the roof with my colleagues to cover over the insulation which had been laid so it didn’t get wet.

“The stack of plyboard wasn’t secured to the roof and was still some distance away. I didn’t realise at the time just how dangerous it would turn out to be.”

As weather conditions deteriorated and the wind picked up, a piece of plyboard was blown from the stack and travelled some 18 metres before striking Christopher and knocking him unconscious.

Colleagues reacted quickly following the incident and Christopher was taken to Addenbrooke’s Hospital for treatment, where it was confirmed that his injuries had left him partially paralysed. He has returned to the hospital on numerous occasions over the past four years since the incident for regular rehabilitation sessions due to the severity of his injuries.

“When the news was given to me I was understandably devastated. With my line of work and lifestyle I have always been very active, so it has taken a long time to come to terms with what I’m facing up to,” he outlined.

“Being the breadwinner for the family I was also very worried about my wife and children, but this settlement is going to make a huge difference and ensure I can continue to make my recovery with the support of my loved ones around me.

“While it is too late for me, I hope that employers can learn from my experiences, will improve awareness of the importance of safety in the workplace and hopefully go some way to prevent other people in the construction trade from suffering the same problems.”

David Urpeth added: “We have vast experience in these types of cases and have repeatedly called for both safety standards across the construction industry to be improved and all employers to take full responsibility for this very important issue.

“We will also continue to do so to ensure that lessons are learned from such cases which go a long way to preventing the same mistakes in the future.

“We are very pleased to help Christopher and his family move towards a better future and wish them all the best.”