A railway worker who ended up losing part of his thumb after it became infected by sewerage when he was provided with the unsuitable safety gloves has received compensation.

Darren Skelton, 41, from Wakefield in Yorkshire ended up in hospital hooked up to an IV drip after his thumb became seriously infected.

A split on the seam of a pair of fabric safety gloves left the skin of the Northern Rail supervisor driver exposed as he moved pipes which take away human waste from the toilet systems on trains.

A few days after the task the thumb on his right hand became inflamed and despite antibiotics from his GP continued to swell and part of the flesh began to die. Mr Skelton needed surgery to remove part of his thumb and has been left with significantly reduced sensation and restricted movement in what has been left.

He had to take three months off work and when he returned he was on light duties for another three months.

Thompsons Solicitors made claim for compensation

Mr Skelton, who has worked for Northern Rail and its predecessors for 24 years, said staff had raised concerns about the suitability of the type of glove being used on a number of occasions but nothing was done to improve the situation. Workers were also concerned that they were cheap and weren’t fit for moving the pipes.

Following the accident his trade union ASLEF instructed Thompsons Solicitors to investigate a claim for compensation.

Thompsons argued that Northern Rail should have provided gloves which would sufficiently protect staff required to handle sewerage pipes.

Northern Rail admitted liability and settled the claim out of court for £7,500.

Since Mr Skelton’s accident workers are now provided with a latex-type glove and have been trained in which gloves to use. The pipe connections are now also stored in buckets of sanitizing fluid.

Complaints about gloves made before accident

He said: “Over the years we have complained time and again about the type of gloves we were provided with. We knew they weren’t robust and were the cheapest option. Our complaints were ignored until I had my accident.

“I’m very aware of the scarring on my thumb. I’ve got significantly reduced sensation and restricted movement. I’ve had to learn to adapt so I can continue to do my job but there are still some things I can’t do like pick up nails and screws.”

Mick Whelan ASLEF’s General Secretary said: “Northern Rail failed to listen. As every gardener or anyone who uses gloves to clean the house or the car knows not all gloves are the same. Five minutes thought about what was the best glove for the job would have avoided Mr Skelton suffering a serious infection and having to adapt to the consequences of losing part of his thumb.”

Lucy-Anne Thomas from Thompsons Solicitors added: “This was classic short-termism by Northern Rail. Spending money on good quality gloves that were fit for purpose should have been seen by Northern rail as a good investment to keeping their staff safe.”