Our industrial disease solicitors helped Dave* claim compensation after unsafe working conditions at his employers of 30 years left him with the serious medical condition.
Shortly after leaving school, Dave began working with his dad at James W Shenton, a local iron-based foundry. He started as a lorry driver but after about 10 years, the firm got smaller and Dave began covering other roles outside of his contract.
Around 2000, Dave started working as dresser part-time, covering colleagues who were ill or on holiday. He eventually took on the role full-time when another colleague went on long-term leave and then left the company altogether. However, his employers didn’t change his contract for another 12 months.
Dave’s working day began at 6:30 am and he’d work with heavy tools that produced substantial vibrations until 4:30 pm. As well as these long hours, he only got short breaks, meaning he was almost always using the tools.
The amount of time Dave spent using a tool without a break could vary from 45 minutes to three hours. His employers didn’t tell him the importance of breaks and the dangers of exposure to vibrations. During his time with the firm, he got little to no health and safety guidance.
Dave’s employers rarely replaced his tools and didn’t look after them properly. They’d only replace tools once they were unrepairable and never recalibrated the grinders that Dave used.
Dave’s Symptoms and Diagnosis
Dave began notice tingling in his hands while using the tools around 2009. By 2012, these symptoms were lasting for up to an hour.
By 2016, Dave began to realise that the tingling was permanent in all his fingers and thumbs, on both hands. He decided to try and get medical help.
Dave alerted his managing director to his worsening condition and lack of recent medical attention. The managing director said he was too busy to help and sent Dave to the firm’s director.
Dave finally got a proper medical assessment in May 2017. It showed that Dave’s symptoms were still in the early stages and that he was still fit to work with vibrating tools on a temporary basis.
Dave needed a follow-up appointment but it took Dave’s employer another 6 months to arrange. In the meantime, Dave returned to work as usual.
In November 2017, Dave finally had a full tier 4 HAVS (Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome) assessment. The doctor diagnosed Dave with HAVS and declared him unfit for work with vibration tools.
Again, Dave needed a follow-up appointment but this time his employers didn’t arrange it at all.
Dave’s diagnosis prompted him to reach out to our Industrial Disease team. Sonia Gill, a paralegal at our Birmingham office, helped Dave in building a compensation claim against his employers.
Victimisation in the Workplace
After the diagnosis, Dave’s employers took him off vibration tools but he still had to use a variety of heavy hammers. He eventually became a supervisor overseeing the dressing shop, a role that didn’t involve using any vibrating tools at all.
Nonetheless, Dave treated very badly towards the end of his time with James W Shenton, despite working there for over 30 years. Dave felt that the firm was victimising him for his disability and for making a claim against them.
The firm was due to close in 2020 and Dave should have got a large redundancy package after being with the company for such a long time. However, they made working life so difficult for Dave that he handed in his notice early, surrendering his redundancy package.
How We Helped
Dave’s paralegal, Sonia, arranged an independent medical assessment from a specialist consultant. It showed that two conditions were affecting Dave's hands, with HAVS being a major contributor.
We submitted this assessment along with evidence from Dave and two of his former colleagues which proved unsafe working conditions at the firm.
James W Shenton admitted to exposing Dave to levels of vibration that cause foreseeable risk. However, they didn’t accept responsibility for Dave’s condition and only offered a small sum to settle the compensation claim.
We didn’t accept this result and Sonia was able to negotiate a much higher five-figure sum for Dave instead.
We hope this settlement can give Dave with some much-needed closure and financial security for the future.
Dave’s GP had previously recommended decompression surgery on his hands to help relieve pain. At the time, Dave was worried that his employers would use the surgery as an excuse to fire him. The compensation settlement has now given him the freedom to consider getting the surgery again in the future.
HAVS now has significant effect on Dave’s daily living - he really struggles with simple day-to day-tasks because he can’t feel his hands properly. He also can’t keep up with his old hobbies such as baking and painting.
The settlement will help Dave pay for adaptive equipment that will help with these activities and get his life back to normal.
“It’s been a pleasure to work with Dave and help him secure compensation,” said Sonia. “It was terrible to see how Dave’s employers treated such a long-service employee. Everyone deserves a safe working environment and we’re thrilled to get Dave the compensation he deserves.”
Dave added: “Satinder and Sonia are the most polite and helpful people you could wish to have fighting your corner and they have helped me through some difficult and stressful times.”
If you or a loved one is suffering from Vibration White Finger or HAVS, contact our team today on 0370 1500 100 or contact us online to find out more about how we can help.
*Not client’s real name
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