The decision initially affects three members of ASLEF, the train drivers’ union who contracted Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS), but has wide implications for their colleagues throughout the UK.
All three drivers developed the condition – often caused by pressure on a nerve in the wrist resulting from repetitive wrist action - while operating from Arriva Trains Wales, Carmarthen Depot.
CTS is a rare condition and it is unusual for three drivers to be affected in a depot of 50. They drove the 140, 142, 150, 152 and 153 model locomotives throughout South Wales along the Heart of Wales lines.
Following diagnosis the drivers contacted ASLEF which instructed Thompsons Solicitors to pursue a claim for compensation.
Arriva Trains Wales denied liability saying the injuries were not caused by working conditions and the union pursued the claim through the courts.
ASLEF argued the symptoms were caused by repetitive work, adopting awkward wrist postures and operating brake and power controls in cramped conditions.
The members had complained of inadequate seats with little or no adjustment and no arm rests.
Paul Studholme, 43, discovered he suffered from CTS in 2004. He said the condition forced him to take more than 10 months off work.
He said: “It is a great relief that the judge has supported our argument. CTS forced me to go on the sick for a number of months and as a result I became depressed. The fact that three of us in the same depot all developed this condition shows that more should have been done to improve our working conditions.”
Following a five-day trial his Honour Judge Vosper found all three members suffered from CTS and he ruled it was work-related. He said Arriva Trains Wales had failed to assess the drivers’ working conditions for risks to health and safety or to put preventative measures in place.
They will share over £22,000 in damages.
ASLEF’s general secretary Keith Norman said: “This is a fantastic result for our members and sets a precedent for all train drivers across the country who suffer from CTS. These three drivers deserve our praise for sticking with this case and I’m proud of all the union’s local and regional officials for persisting with it.
“Employers should ensure they put proper risk assessments in place to make sure all rail workers have the safest conditions possible.”
Bill Gasson from Thompsons Solicitors added: “This is a great victory for train drivers who work in cramped and awkward conditions. Arriva Trains Wales failed to risk-assess the work system and the ergonomic conditions of the cab. The firm even failed to take the most modest of measures to prevent or significantly reduce the risk of injury to drivers.”
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