An apprentice engineer who was trained to remove safety guards from machinery and subsequently suffered a severe head injury has received a substantial sum in compensation.

The 22-year-old from Bournemouth was struck on the face when a solid nylon billet he was attempting to work on at a precision engineering firm in the Bournemouth area flew off the machine.

The billet crushed part of his skull and eye socket, and pushed fragments of bone perilously close to his brain.

The Unite the Union member needed emergency surgery to rebuild his skull and titanium plates were inserted.

He has been left with loss of sensation on the right side of his skull and has been told he risks developing loss of movement in the right side of his face in the future. He suffers from shooting pains in his head and has to go for regular hospital check ups.

Bravely, he continued his apprenticeship with another company and still works in the industry.

Safety guard was removed from machine

The apprentice was first shown how to work on the nylon billet by a trainer, one of the turners on the shop floor, as part of his induction. His trainer removed the safety guard, machined one component while the apprentice watched and then asked him to do one while he observed. When the apprentice had finished the one component he was told that that was his training on the machine.

Had the guard been fitted the billet would never have hit his head.

Following the accident he contacted his trade union, Unite, which instructed its lawyers Thompsons Solicitors to pursue a claim for compensation.

Thompsons argued that the employers should never have trained him to remove the safety guard on the machine.

The precision engineering firm admitted liability and settled the claim out of court.

The Unite member said: “As an apprentice you have to trust you are being told the safest and most efficient way to do a job. I used the machine the way I was taught and had no reason to suspect that was unsafe. I relied on my bosses and they nearly killed me.

“I am all too aware how lucky I have been and I do worry now when I have to work with certain machines. I try not to let the continuing symptoms or the memories of that day get to me as I enjoy my work but I am very mindful now of what can go wrong on the shop floor.”

Proper Health and Safety procedures are important

Steve Atwell from Unite added: “This apprentice was taught how to do a job in total contravention of basic health and safety. What had become an acceptable practice on the shop floor was in fact extremely dangerous. This shows how poor practice can get handed down as the norm and highlights yet again the overriding importance of a proper culture of health and safety, something that this government is trying so hard in so many ways to destroy.”

James Davies from Thompsons Solicitors added: “This apprentice was extremely fortunate that his injuries were not more serious though having to endure emergency surgery, losing feeling in your skull as well as suffering from side effects for life is serious enough in itself. It is incredible that an employer can treat health and safety with such apparent contempt as to allow those with no experience to be trained to work without guards.”