A lecturer who suffered permanent damage to his fingers after they became trapped in a defective sash window has received compensation after help from his trade union.

The 60-year-old from Treharris, Mid Glamorgan, needed to take two weeks off work and was in pain for six months following the accident at Coleg Morgannwg College’s Rhondda campus.

He had just finished lecturing when he went to close the windows in the classroom. The defective sash window had been opened incorrectly and the back pane of glass was at the bottom of the window whilst the front pane of glass was at the top. In trying to put the back pane up to the top of the window frame to close it the front pane fell crushing his hand.

Crush injuries to fingers

He suffered crushing injuries to his middle and index finger on his right hand. They were strapped meaning for two weeks he was unable to attend work and needed support from his wife in getting washed and dressed.

Six months later he was still suffering from pain and taking medication daily. Almost two years after the accident a lack of dexterity in the fingers means that he has problems taking lids off jars, fastening buttons on his clothes and anything else that involves fine finger work, particularly in colder weather.

Following the accident his trade union, the University and College Union (UCU), advised him to claim compensation and he instructed its lawyers Thompsons Solicitors.

Windows should have been regularly checked for faults and fixed

Thompsons argued that the windows should have been regularly checked for faults and fixed. Coleg Morgannwg admitted liability and settled the claim out of court.

The member said: “It is frustrating when I can’t do something simple because my fingers just won’t do what I tell them to do. I’ve been told they will never be 100% again so I’m just having to learn to live with it.

“My accident could have happened to anyone – another member of staff or a student. The College needed to know that they could not injure someone for the rest of their lives and just ignore it.”

Injuries could have been avoided

Sally Hunt, UCU General Secretary added: “Many of our members work in ageing buildings but a simple system of inspection can avoid accidents like this. The fault on this window should have picked up well before it injured a member of staff.

Caragh Hogan from Thompsons Solicitors said: “Our client was exposed to a trap and his injuries could have been avoided at little cost by a programme of regular inspections and maintenance. This accident shows how badly things can go wrong if employers cut corners on health and safety.”