52-year-old Martin Queen suffered a serious accident at work when a 100 kg arm of a packing machine crushed his hand
52-year-old Martin Queen was employed by Sonoco Ltd, a packaging manufacturer based in Halifax, Yorkshire, and at the time of his accident was changing a roll of paper in a machine.
The process involved a metal arm in the machine, which holds the roll of paper in place, being lifted upright and pinned in place to allow access.
As Martin was checking to see if the paper roll was loaded correctly his colleague removed the pin, which caused the 100kg arm to drop from its vertical position straight down onto his right hand, causing irreparable damage to his fingers.
Martin was rushed to hospital and needed an emergency operation on his hand; surgeons amputated his middle finger to below the first knuckle and inserted wires into his right index and ring fingers.
However, ongoing pain and infections in his hand meant that he had to have five further surgical procedures, leaving his index, middle and ring fingers partially amputated. As well as his physical injuries, Martin also suffered psychological distress.
Following the accident he was off work for more than a year and contacted Unite to discuss his options of returning to work at Sonoco. He initially took a part-time role, but further negotiations between his union and employer led to him taking a site services role that was adapted to his disability.
Through Unite Legal Services, he instructed a serious injury specialist lawyer at Thompsons Solicitors, who secured interim payments to cover Martin’s physiotherapy, medical treatment and cosmetic prosthetics. Following the issue of court proceedings offers in settlement were made but Martin was advised to reject them.
In November 2016, negotiations reached a six-figure sum and Martin was advised to settle his claim. The settlement achieved represented a fivefold increase on the original offers made, which Martin had been advised to reject.
“I’ve been a member of Unite for several years, but it’s only since my accident that I’ve realised just how valuable and beneficial being part of a union is,” said Martin. “I didn’t think I had anyone to turn to for help when I was injured and out of work, but speaking to Unite made a massive difference.
“The interim payments meant I could pay for treatments that have helped to restore some of the movement in my hand as well as pay for prosthetics. They have made me feel so much more confident and I’ve even been able to get back into archery, one of my favourite hobbies.
“I know that my injury is for life, but I’m extremely grateful for everything that Thompsons and Unite have done for me. I’ve been able to get back to work, enjoy my hobbies again and regain my independence, which really does means everything to me.”
Karen Reay, North East, Yorkshire and Humberside regional secretary at Unite the Union, said: “Martin’s Unite membership meant that he was awarded a substantial compensation pay out, with no deductions, as well as interim payments so that he could have the treatments he desperately needed to help aid his rehabilitation.
“While we’re thrilled to have been able to support Martin’s impressive progress, the fact remains that if his employer had trained its employees and implemented adequate health and safety procedures, Martin’s accident – and his subsequent injuries - would never have happened.”
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