A Unite member who needed two operations to correct a hernia following a workplace accident has received more than £7,000 in compensation.

Keith Robinson, 43, from Haswell in Durham, needed the major surgery after moving a 12ft high and 30ft long walkway to access a work area.

The painter for Caterpillar in Peterlee needed to move the heavy piece of equipment to gain access to the vehicles he was due to paint.

The walkway was extremely heavy and on small wheels on a gridded floor meaning the wheels would regularly jam in the floor and lock in place. The flooring was also uneven escalating the problem.

Problem had been reported to factory bosses before accident

The problem had been highlighted to factory bosses over a period of three years but nothing had been done to correct it.

Mr Robinson, who has worked for Caterpillar for 20 years, attempted to move the walkway in July 2007 and June 2008. On both occasions it jammed causing him to suffer a straining injury.

He developed an umbilical hernia which was operated on in November 2008. He is currently recovering from a second operation he had to have due to complications.

After both operations he needed to take almost three months off work.

When he realised he was going to need major surgery to fix his hernia he contacted his union which instructed Thompsons Solicitors to pursue a claim for compensation.

Thompsons Solicitors made claim for compensation

Thompsons argued Caterpillar should have acted quicker to either replace the flooring or the walkway to prevent the wheels from jamming.

Caterpillar admitted liability and settled the claim out of court.

Mr Robinson said: “We complained time and again about the walkway and the problems it caused but nothing was ever done about it. We even suggested alternative walkways which could be used but we had to struggle on with the original piece of equipment.

“I’ve now had a second operation on my hernia and I hope that will fix it but I am worried that I might strain myself and it happens again. I just hope this claim for compensation will make my bosses solve this problem once and for all.”

Davey Hall, regional secretary at Unite said: “Too often our members are injured in workplace accidents where the employer had been warned that an accident was waiting to happen. There is no excuse for employers not taking all reasonable steps to correct health and safety concerns. Here ignoring the problem ended up with a loyal employee becoming seriously injured.”

Nicola Waugh from Thompsons Solicitors added: “Mr Robinson has had to take six months off work sick because his employer failed to listen to staff concerns. Caterpillar should have listened as well as carrying out proper risk assessments.”