UNISON member compensated after employers fail to protect staff in extreme weather24 April 2014
Managers’ decision to ignore a basic safety requirement meant a dedicated care support worker could not work again
An employee of a sheltered housing scheme has been awarded £50,000 in compensation after being left with a permanent problems with her balance and forced to retire early after being knocked unconscious when she slipped on an icy and ungritted pavement.
Fall on an ungritted pavement at work
The care support worker was carrying out a routine visit to a new resident on the sheltered housing scheme where she worked. Significant snowfall and cold weather caused the UNISON member to slip and fall. Her head and neck took the brunt of the fall and she was knocked unconscious.
With the support of her trade union, the member exposed that the employer had failed to implement an adverse weather policy, despite one of the claimant’s colleagues suffering a fall on the ungritted pavement, just three days prior to her accident, there was no supply of grit at the premises on the day of her accident.
Chronic dizziness and imbalance
The 62 year-old was taken to hospital and underwent an MRI and CAT scan and was diagnosed with vestibular dysfunction. The condition causes chronic dizziness and imbalance which doctors advised she is likely to suffer from for the rest of her life.
Seven months after the accident, the care support worker decided she would not be able to return to work because she found her condition too limiting, and, on her GP’s advice, took early retirement.
A life changing injury
“I had taken anti-sickness pills for six months after the accident and my condition was still extremely limiting,” said the UNISON member.
“For 14 months after the accident my life completely changed. I cannot begin to describe how immobilising the episodes of dizziness were and I had no control over what triggered them. I was nervous about carrying out routine tasks, and didn’t want to be left on my own because of how frequent the episodes were.
“Luckily, four years on, I am learning to live with the condition but I was very upset to have to retire two years early because of an accident which could have been avoided if simple measures had been put in place.
UNISON instructed accident at work specialists Thompson Solicitors to pursue a compensation claim against the member’s employer. Since the accident in 2009 the group has now enforced an adverse weather policy.
Employer showed an inexcusable lack of care and thought
Bronwyn McKenna, Assistant General Secretary at UNISON, said: “In extreme weather conditions, it's absolutely vital that actions are taken to avoid accidents such as this from happening. It is shocking that the pavement was not gritted after a similar accident had taken place just days before.
“As a result of this inexcusable lack of thought and care, our member has been forced to retire early with a permanent health condition. We are therefore pleased that we have secured the compensation she rightly deserved.”
Paul Rosser from Thompsons said: “It is an employer’s responsibility to ensure that clear and simple health and safety systems are in place so staff do not have to put themselves at risk during their working hours.
"In extreme weather conditions, to not have grit on-site is totally irresponsible.”
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