A machine operator at a car manufacturer has received £20,000 compensation after an unsafe storage system led to a workplace injury, which was then aggravated by falling through a rotten floorboard in the factory toilets.

Barry Lester, 64, from Corringham in Essex was forced to take three weeks off work after he strained his groin whilst attempting to lift a box of car parts at Ford Motor Company in Dagenham.

The parts were in bags of 500 and were stored in interlocking boxes to make them easier to transport. As he went to lift the top box it caught on the boxes below and he was forced to take the weight of the entire stack, weighing several tonnes.

There had previously been a number of accidents and complaints

An external agency had recently been employed to stack and deliver the engine parts prior to assembly at the plant. There had previously been a number of accidents and complaints about the way the boxes, containing the parts, were being stacked, but nothing was done to fix the problem until after the accident.

Mr Lester, who has worked for Ford for 24 years, was able to work through the pain for another year, but in April 2009 his injured leg fell through a rotten floorboard in the staff toilet.

The fall aggravated his condition and he had to take time off work. His injury means he can no longer manage overtime in other departments and has had to give up his hobbies of golfing and gardening.

Thompsons Solicitors made claim for compensation

Following the second incident he contacted his trade union, Unite, for advice. Unite instructed its lawyers Thompsons Solicitors to pursue a claim for compensation for the initial injury.

Thompsons argued that Ford should have addressed the problem with the boxes when concerns were first raised.

Ford admitted liability and settled the claim out of court.

Employer did nothing to make the process safer

Mr Lester said: “I was reasonably fit before this accident. But now the pain in my leg becomes too much if I work long hours so I’m no longer able to do overtime in other departments. I can’t do the gardening or play golf – the hobbies that I loved - and I worry about how I will cope when I retire next year.

“I’m indebted to Unite and Thompsons Solicitors for helping me to recover the money I have lost through sick leave and missing out on overtime.”

Peter Kavanagh, London and Eastern Regional Secretary (Acting) at Unite said: “As soon as complaints were made about these storage boxes Ford should have reacted quickly to fix the problem. Instead it took a loyal employee getting injured for them to finally resolve what was clearly a health and safety hazard.”

Tom Moore from Thompsons Solicitors in Dagenham added: “Ford had been told there was a health and safety problem with these boxes but they did nothing to make the process safer. Ford turned a blind eye to their duty of care to make sure they keep their employees safe.”