The GMB has secured £5,000 in damages for a machine operator who suffered a hernia after falling from a faulty ladder while working at Derbyshire-based paper conversion company, Schades Ltd.*

Eric Underwood from Alfreton was putting a roll of polythene film weighing 20kg onto the top of a shrink-wrap machine in January 2010. The stepladder he was using to reach the top of the machine suddenly twisted and collapsed causing the 61-year-old to fall two feet to the ground while holding the full weight of the roll.

Examining the ladder after his fall, Eric found that one of the restraining bars was missing and reported this to management who told him to dispose of it.

Eric suffered twinges of discomfort after his accident but he carried on working and thought the pain would go away but in fact the pain got gradually worse over two years eventually causing him to stoop forward. Eventually he visited his local GP who diagnosed him with a right-sided hernia.

Six weeks of leave from work to recover

Following surgery at Kingsmill Hospital in Nottingham, Eric had to take six weeks of leave from work to recover.

Eric, who had been a member of the GMB for more than 23 years, contacted his union for advice who advised Thompsons Solicitors to investigate a case for compensation.

Eric said: “Whilst I am not one to complain and carried on after the accident it was clear that I had been injured by the fall but my employer showed no interest when the accident happened and little or no regard for the injury I suffered. They simply asked me to get rid of the broken bit of kit.

“When I couldn’t keep going any longer and went to my GP I ended up with six weeks off work to recover from an operation. Financially, this was quite difficult as I was only entitled to half pay for the first month and no pay during the final two weeks. I raised my salary loss with my employer when I returned to work, but it fell on deaf ears. I was also unable to drive or cycle for a few months, which was extremely frustrating and limiting.

“Luckily, Schades Ltd was bought out by another company just over a month ago and my hope is that the new management team will take health and safety matters more seriously.”

Andy Worth from the GMB said: “It isn’t that difficult in this day and age to supply a ladder that isn’t broken and to get rid of those that are so they don’t get used. This employer’s lack of concern led to two years of pain before even a stalwart like Eric couldn’t keep going any longer and even then they refused to sort out his losses caused by an accident that happened through no fault of his own.”

Angela Staples from Thompsons Solicitors who represented Eric said: “It became clear during the case that Schades’ old management simply didn’t have a system of inspection and maintenance in place, as the stepladder Eric had to work with was completely defective. To add insult to injury, Eric was asked to throw the ladder away himself – something his employer should have done when they knew it was broken.”

*Schades Ltd has been under new management since September 2013.