Health And Safety Failings ‘Rob’ Dad Of Chance To Provide For Young Family

‘HSE Verdict Should Act As Warning To Construction Industry’ Says Expert Lawyer


A father-of-four forced to give up his profession after his employers failed to follow health and safety procedures, leaving him with a debilitating injury, has spoken of his ordeal following the successful conclusion of a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) trial into the case.

Andrew Wood developed Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and chronic regional pain syndrome after working with vibrating hand tools for hours every day during his two-year employment with C J Gowing & Sons Ltd, based in East Sussex, between 2010 and 2012.

Andrew’s employer was found guilty on six counts of breaching health & safety law including four counts relating to Andrew’s use of vibrating hand tools. The company was fined £45,000 plus costs at a High Court hearing that finished last week (17 October).

The 35-year-old, from Heathfield in Sussex, instructed workplace injury experts at law firm Irwin Mitchell to help him gain access to the treatment and rehabilitation he needs as well as provide financial security as he is in so much pain he can no longer work.

C J Gowing & Sons Ltd have admitted responsibility for causing Andrew’s injuries and Irwin Mitchell lawyers are now working to secure him a settlement to protect his position should be unable to return to work and to pay for treatment for his hands.

Today, Andrew backed the firm’s calls for greater awareness of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome throughout the construction industry.

Guidelines state that the two tools Andrew regularly used to demolish buildings at various sites during his time as a labourer with C J Gowing & Sons Ltd should be used for no more than 30-45 minutes per day. However, Andrew was requested to use the tools for five to six hours on a daily basis, causing severe pain and numbness to his hands.

On another occasion, Andrew was asked to work down a three meter hole in the ground that had not been boarded up in any way and was liable to collapse on top of him and his colleagues at any time.

Sofie Toft, an expert workplace injury lawyer at Irwin Mitchell’s London office representing Andrew, said: “My client has been left devastated by his injuries which he has been told he will never fully recover from and mean he has had to give up his job.

“Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is preventable if employers follow the guidelines for staff working with vibration hand tools but unfortunately Andrew’s former employers had a complete disregard for his safety, leaving him in a huge amount of pain and unable to work to support his young family.

“We welcome the HSE prosecution and hope that lessons are learnt by C J Gowing & Sons Ltd. The case should also act as a warning to all those in the construction industry of the importance of protecting workers to prevent anyone else from being put through the same suffering as Andrew.

“We will now continue to work with his former employers to ensure he has access to the treatment and rehabilitation he needs, such as physiotherapy, as well as to give him financial security.”

Andrew added: “I would regularly complain to my boss about the pain I was in after a significant period using the vibration tools, but I was offered no help and basically just told to get on with it.

“By the end of my employment with the company the pain was so bad that my hands would regularly lock in a claw position and it became physically impossible for me to do the jobs that were expected from me.

“Having four young children, I am desperate to work and provide for them but I have been robbed of that opportunity because my bosses failed to follow health and safety guidelines.

“It’s very hard not to be bitter and angry so I am very pleased with the result of the HSE trial today and hope it raises awareness amongst companies of the dangers of not protecting workers who use vibrating hand tools.”

If you or a loved one has suffered from repetitive strain injuries, such as bursitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, ulnar neuropathy and vibration white finger caused by conditions at work, our solicitors could help you claim compensation. See our Industrial Disease Claims page for more information.