Problems over years with water leakage from cooling racks eventually claimed a victim at GlaxoSmithKline in Ulverston Cumbria when 52 year old employee and member of the Unite union Dorothy Kirby slipped and fractured the elbow of her dominant right arm.

At the time of her fall Mrs Kirby also from Ulverston was, as a pre existing sufferer from severe arthritis, already booked in for an operation to replace the right elbow joint just 11 days after her fall. Her compensation of £3,500 reflected the limited time she had to suffer before she underwent the pre arranged operation.

Her union Unite referred Mrs Kirby to Thompsons solicitors who gathered evidence that the cooling racks had been leaking and had been complained about many times over 5 or more years but nothing had been done. Inspections that were meant to occur every 12 months either didn’t take place or recommendations from them were ignored.

Employers knew about problem for years

Mrs Kirby said: “The employers knew full well that there was a problem with water leaking from the cooling racks and yet, for whatever reason, they did nothing or nothing effective about it for years. The pain in my elbow was agony but at least I was allowed to go ahead with the operation and I now feel much more confident with the arm. Thank goodness I didn’t crack the other elbow.”

Paul Finegan, North West Regional Secretary of Unite said: “Credit to GlaxoSmithKline, they put their hands up very quickly to being at fault here but so they should, this was just waiting to happen. This was a very basic health and safety failure by GlaxoSmithKline for which Mrs Kirby suffered”

Lyndsay Milligan of Thompsons Solicitors said: “People go on about health and safety being a burden to employers but this was a leak that GlaxoSmithKline knew about and failed to deal with, simple stuff. If this is what you get from a big organised employer when we have health and safety laws in place I fear for workers safety if health and safety laws are relaxed”.