A kitchen worker at Pengar School in Llanelli, who was left in agony after continually lifting sacks of potatoes onto a trolley, has secured compensation with the help of UNISON.

The potato peeling machine in Tina Bowen’s school kitchen had been broken for a long period of time. As a result, she had to use a machine at a different school which left her manually lifting the heavy sacks of potatoes onto a trolley and pushing them across a car park. She would then have to load the clean potatoes back onto the trolley in order to take them back to Pengar School to be cooked.

Six months off work due to injury

During one trip, Tina felt severe pain in her left shoulder. She was absent from work for six months, during which time she lost vital earnings and struggled with the simplest of day to day tasks.

“I can barely describe how unbearable the pain in my shoulder was during those six months,” said Tina.

“My movement was so restricted that I could hardly even dress myself. I wish that the management had fixed the potato peeler earlier or provided me with a safe alternative; this could all have been avoided.”

Legal investigation uncovered employer’s failings

Following her injury, Tina contacted UNISON, who referred her case to specialist personal injury lawyers at Thompsons who investigated her case. Together, UNISON and Thompsons secured several thousand pounds on Tina’s behalf by proving that Carmarthenshire County Council had not followed basic health and safety rules.

Margaret Thomas, UNISON Regional Secretary in Wales, said: “When important equipment breaks down, it isn't good enough for employers to just expect employees to lump it and make do - it's about putting safe alternatives in place. We are pleased that we were able to help secure Tina the compensation she deserved for her injury but remain baffled as to why the Council didn’t fix the problem in the first place to avoid the injury.”

Alex Harvey of Thompsons Solicitors commented: “Tina should never have had to struggle on to carry out such a basic part of her job. The answer when the potato peeler machine broke down wasn't to have Tina lug potatoes across a car park on a precarious round trip. This was an accident waiting to happen.”