A school caretaker, who needed surgery after suffering a hernia from lifting a heavy room divider, has received accident compensation, with help from UNISON.

Alan Thomas, from South Kirkby, near Pontefract, was off work for two months following corrective surgery in November 2007.

The 43-year-old, based at Common Road Infant School, in South Kirkby, was moving the divider so he could clean and polish a classroom floor when he was injured. 

Following the operation, UNISON advised Mr Thomas to pursue a claim and he received £3,471.

Employers admitted liability and settled claim

The school’s Local Education Authority, Wakefield Council, admitted negligence and settled the claim out of court.

Mr Thomas said:

“I am pleased to have received compensation for the pain and suffering the hernia caused.

“Schools should take into account how difficult it is to lift heavy equipment and put measures in place to stop injuries.

“I am now back at work, but I will have to be careful with my health for the rest of my life.”

This accident could so easily have been prevented

Cliff Williams, UNISON’s Yorkshire and Humberside Regional Secretary, said:

“It is only right that Mr Thomas receives compensation for the pain and discomfort that he has suffered.

“This accident could so easily have been prevented.

“He should have received help from a colleague with moving the divider and he could have been provided with mechanical work equipment to assist with the manoeuvre.

“Employers must stop these preventable injuries by carrying out risk assessments and training.”

Employers must have systems in place so that jobs are performed safely

Keely Goldup, from Thompsons Solicitors, said: 

“It is the responsibility of any employer - in this case Wakefield Council - to make sure there are systems in place so that jobs are performed safely and in this case they failed to do so. 

“While Mr Thomas’ hernia has been resolved it was an uncomfortable injury which needed surgery followed by a significant period of rehabilitation.”