A hospital porter who was injured at work after his employer refused to address health and safety warnings, has received £13,000 compensation, in a claim backed by UNISON, the UK’s largest public sector trade union.

Peter Streek, 66, from Tadworth in Surrey, worked for South West London Elective Orthopaedic Centre (SWLEOC) as a porter at Epsom General Hospital. He injured his foot pushing an unwieldy clinical waste bin down a steep, uneven path to the hospital compactor.

The bins were large and poorly designed, had no handles, and were difficult to safely manoeuvre up and down the slope. Mr Streek’s workmates, and his union, UNISON, warned management about the dangers of pulling heavy bins up and down an uneven slope. Despite these warnings, hospital managers did nothing until after Mr Streek’s accident.

Unable to work for more than a year

As a result of his injuries Mr Streek was unable to work for more than a year, and could not even walk without extreme pain. He eventually had to take early retirement from his job as a hospital porter, a job that he loved.

“When the injury first happened I thought I’d just sprained my ankle,” said Mr Streek. “I went home and put a bag of peas on it and thought I’d be fine in the morning. The next day, after going into work and trying to do my job, I realised the pain was only getting worse and I needed to get it checked out.

“I went into the office and told my managers, but they couldn’t have cared less. I went to A&E, where I was given crutches, and told I had badly ruptured my Achilles tendon. I was off work for more than a year. There was no way I could walk on it, let alone push heavy waste bins around. Eventually, I was forced to take early retirement, and had to leave a job I loved.”

Employers have a duty of care to their employees

UNISON’s Head of Health for London, Chris Remmington, said:

“Sadly, the accident that forced Peter out of a job he loved, could and should have been prevented. If managers had listened to staff and unions, and taken action to make the bins and path safer, Peter would have been saved a lot of pain and distress.

“We are pleased that SWLEOC has begun to address its unsafe working conditions in the wake of this case. But for Peter this is too little too late. Employers have a duty of care to their employees. It shouldn’t take someone being injured before they get around to taking action on health and safety concerns.”

Anita Rattan from Thompsons Solicitors, who took the case for UNISON, said: “This is a clear case of an employer failing to ensure a safe workplace. Employers have a legal duty to ensure all work routes are safe to use and to heed safety concerns raised by employees and their union representatives. Because SWLEOC failed to do this it is liable for Mr Streek’s injuries.”