The failure to act on the advice of a doctor has cost a Wigton company £9,500 in damages to a former employee.

The settlement was offered by Sealy Sleep Products (UK) Ltd to Norman Kirkbride, 41, whose GP had written to the company suggesting that Mr Kirkbride’s back condition would worsen if he was asked to continue lifting heavy objects.

Despite this, Mr Kirkbride’s bosses declined to act on the doctor’s advice, and failed to offer any training in manual handling techniques. As a result Mr Kirkbride, who lives in Maryport, experienced further deterioration of an existing back condition, had major surgery on his back, and is still in continual pain.

Mr Kirkbride asked his trade union for advice. GMB Northern appointed Thompsons Solicitors to pursue a claim against Sealy Sleep Products, which resulted in the settlement in Mr Kirkbride’s favour.

“My world has been turned upside,” he said. “I used to enjoy mountain biking and other sports, but that’s impossible now – some days, my back is so painful that I cannot even pick up my two year old son. What’s just as worrying is the response of other employers when I go for job interviews. When I tell them of my back condition, they just do not want to know.”

GMB Regional Organiser Kevin Young was critical of Sealy Sleep Products for ignoring the advice of Mr Kirkbride’s doctor. “Employers have a fundamental obligation to ensure the working environment is safe, and that employees’ health is protected. Sealy failed to grasp this, and then ignored medical advice. Unfortunately, Mr Kirkbride has paid the price.”

David Burn from Thompson’s Solicitors added: “Sealy’s had a duty to act on the advice of Mr Kirkbride’s doctor and to reduce, if not eliminate, the need for him to lift heavy objects at work. They ignored medical advice and so subjected Mr Kirkbride to real and foreseeable risk. As well as this, they failed to provide manual handling training, all of which contributed to the deterioration of Mr Kirkbride’s health.”