A Merseyside machine operator who spent 32 years working for Imperial Tobacco Limited before being made redundant in December 2006 has been awarded damages of £3,800 following an accident at the company’s Liverpool factory in July 2005. With the support of Unite the Union and Thompsons Solicitors in Liverpool, Ms Margaret Kehoe was successful in her claim following injuries sustained to her back.

On the 5th July 2005, Ms Kehoe, 49, was cleaning a machine which was used to pack tobacco. The machine was old and some force was needed to turn a hand wheel. As Ms Kehoe attempted to clean the machine, it malfunctioned and the force of the hand wheel knocked her off her feet.

Ms Kehoe said: “Even before my accident, there were several reported faults about the machine. Although it was repaired, it clearly still wasn’t right and I paid the price. It took an injury to me to force the company to stop using it.”

Lawrence Faircloth North West Regional Secretary for Unite the Union said: “It shouldn’t take an injury, such as the one sustained by Ms Kehoe, to force an employer to pay more serious attention to machinery in the workplace. Employers have a duty of care to their staff – if in doubt, the problem should be fixed properly or the machine decommissioned.”

Representing Ms Kehoe, Helen Templeton of Thompsons Solicitors in Liverpool, said: “Medical evidence showed that Margaret had suffered 18 months of back problems as a result of the accident. She was a committed worker, as demonstrated by her length of service to Imperial Tobacco, so it was hugely disappointing that liability was admitted only after court proceedings commenced.”