Mechanic Injured In Motorbike Accident Calls For Improved Health And Safety Regulations

Expert Lawyers Help Secure Five-Figure Settlement For Dad Accused Of Signing False Health And Safety Documents

24.06.2013

By Suzanne Rutter

A mechanic who had to change his career when he suffered serious wrist injuries while at work hopes to raise awareness about the importance of employers protecting their employees at work after he was falsely accused of writing health and safety policy documents by his former employer.

Michael Chapman, of Rockingham in Rotherham, suffered a shoulder injury and ruptured the ligaments in his wrist in October 2009 while carrying out a pre-delivery inspection on a new Yamaha motorbike while working for the Sheffield Motorcycle Centre Ltd in Sheffield. He fell from the bike when the back wheel skidded on a plastic spacer which was attached to packaging from the bike deliveries.

The 52-year-old motorcycle technician attended Rotherham General Hospital where he faced surgery to repair the ruptured ligaments. He also had to undergo a further operation to fuse the bones in his wrist back into place followed by months of physiotherapy and treatment at the Pain Clinic in Mexborough.

He was unable to return to work as a mechanic because of the long-term damage the motorbike accident had on the mobility in his wrist.

Specialist workplace injury lawyers at Irwin Mitchell have now helped secure a £27,000 settlement for the father-of-one from the Sheffield Motorcycle Centre (SMC).

The settlement follows a trial at Sheffield County Court which was halted by the judge who wanted a handwriting expert to review the health and safety policies presented by the firm.

The policy documents, which were only presented as evidence the day before trial, were alleged to have been co-written and signed by Michael, but Michael denied writing them and the signature was not his.

The court ordered an independent handwriting expert to review the documents.  The expert supported Michael’s evidence that the signature was not genuine.  The case was then settled within a couple of days of receipt of the evidence.

Claire Bracewell, an expert lawyer at Irwin Mitchell who specialises in helping people injured at work and who is representing Michael, said: “At Irwin Mitchell we see the devastating consequences accidents at work can have on people’s lives if the appropriate health and safety procedures are not in place to protect employees from harm.

“Michael’s injury could easily have been prevented if the company had clear guidelines for unpacking new motorcycles to prevent litter causing a hazard.

“Since the accident he’s had to endure three operations, physiotherapy and extensive pain management treatment but he it’s unlikely he will ever regain the full movement in his wrist and he’s had to give up his career as a mechanic, which he really enjoyed.

“We are relieved that the Sheffield Motorcycle Company has finally settled Michael’s case so he can start to put this terrible ordeal behind him. We also hope it’s a stark wake-up call for other employers and shows how important it is to have health and safety regulations in place to protect employees from serious injury.

“It’s also important to highlight the importance of complying properly with health and safety requirements and everyone acting with transparency and integrity.”

Michael, who has been married to his wife Linda for over 15 years and has a teenage daughter, began working for the Sheffield Motorcycle Centre in 2006.

He returned to work for the company on light duties for a few weeks after a plaster cast was removed from his injured hand but when physiotherapy didn’t help ease the pain and discomfort he was in, doctors operated on him again in February 2010 to fuse his wrist and again in May 2010 when he continued to suffer pins and needles in his wrist.

He also underwent acupuncture, painkiller injections and a series of procedures to ‘freeze’ the nerves in his wrist and arm which has given him some pain relief.

Since the accident Michael has been unable to enjoy his hobbies of racing specialist Enduro bikes, which involves riding off-road through dense forests, mountain biking and rifle shooting. Sadly, he has only been able to get back on his bike a few times since the accident for fear of exacerbating his injury if he falls.

Michael said: “The accident was a terrible blow and it’s been really hard to come to terms with how the injuries have affected my life. Road testing the bikes was a regular part of my job but on the day of the accident the back wheel of the Yamaha slipped on the plastic spacer. The bike fell on top of me and skidded across the car park.

“I’ve been in constant pain and discomfort ever since, which could easily have been prevented if my bosses had taken more responsibility. It was common to have bikes delivered in bulk so it was always so messy and littered with packaging, parts and equipment.

“Before the accident I was always really active and loved riding motorbikes off-road and through country roads. I also kept fit by riding a mountain bike and had been a keen rifleman and went target shooting regularly. I can’t do any of these things to the level I used to, which is incredibly disappointing.

“I’m relieved the company has now settled the case so I can finally put this ordeal behind me. It’s been a stressful and frustrating experience, especially when the firm alleged that I had helped write, and signed, health and safety documents when I had not.

"I’m happy I’ve finally got a sense of justice for what I’ve been through and I hope the firm has learnt valuable lessons about the importance of health and safety so other employees don’t have to go through what I have in future.”