UNISON, the UK's largest public sector trade union, has secured £6,000 compensation for a Harbour Master who had to take early retirement after seriously injuring his back through slipping on dangerous stairs that staff had complained about for years.

Michael Leggett, 58, from Beccles, in Suffolk worked as a Harbour Master for Waveney District Council for 21 years.

While working at Southwold harbour, he went outside to throw away a carton of milk and fell on stairs that were slimy from decades of exposure to the sea. The stairs did not have any tread and the handrail had been removed when a colleague fell on it, causing it to give way.

Michael was forced to take six weeks off work and was later told that his injury exacerbated onset arthritis by two years. He returned to work, but decided to take early retirement after it became clear his back was causing him too much pain to continue in his job.

Accident at work

Commenting on his case, Michael Leggett said:"My colleagues and I had reported our concerns about the stairs to Waveney District Council several times over about four or five years but they did nothing to make them safer. I decided to pursue compensation because I felt strongly that the council had been negligent towards its employees.

"This injury meant I had to leave the job I loved earlier than I would have liked and I wanted to make sure that none of my colleagues suffered the same fate." 

UNISON Regional Secretary, Greg Grant, said: "Slips and trips are the single most common cause of injury in UK workplaces. Avoiding falls should be a major priority for employers and their health and safety advisors.

"It should never have taken an accident like this to make the council take action and remove the stairs. They should be doing all they can to protect the health and safety of their staff."

Client Representative at Thompson's Solicitors, who took the case for UNISON, Jyothi Bhurjee said:

"The council failed to ensure adequate precautions were taken to avoid this accident. Mr Leggett has sustained injuries to his back and as a result can no longer work as a harbour master - a job he got great satisfaction from."