A Unite the Union member who suffered a broken back when a colleague lost control of a motorised vehicle at Stansted Airport has received compensation after help from Unite Legal Services.

Mick Draper, 64, from Baintree, Essex was injured when a colleague drove a buggy, used for transporting trailers full of luggage, into a trolley Mr Draper was attending to in March 2009 as part of his job for Swissport.

The buggy hit Mr Draper’s elbow and threw him several feet onto a nearby luggage chute. He landed heavily breaking three bones in his back which needed reconstructive surgery.

Following the accident he attempted to work through the pain for some weeks but in April 2009 he woke up one morning unable to move.

Initially he was referred for physiotherapy before specialists diagnosed a broken back. He has been left in constant pain in his back and finds it difficult to walk, lift and carry out simple tasks.

Instructed Thompsons Solicitors to claim compensation

Before the accident Mr Draper was a senior shop steward with Unite. He contacted Unite Legal Services for advice on claiming compensation and Thompsons Solicitors was instructed.

Investigations found the buggy driver had been working 17 hour days for the last 11 days when the accident occurred.

Mr Draper had previously warned bosses that the practice of allowing workers to work excessive hours would lead to an accident but his concerns were ignored.

Swissport’s insurers settled the claim out of court.

Mr Draper said: “I’d warned my bosses before that the practice of staff working excessive hours was dangerous but my concerns were ignored. I knew that this was an accident waiting to happen but never imagined it would be me that would end up paying the consequences.

“My injuries have completely changed my life. I was extremely active until the accident and now the only time I’m not in pain is when I lie down.”

Left disabled by an accident which could have been easily avoided

Peter Kavanagh from Unite the Union said: “This member has been left disabled by an accident which could have been easily avoided. Swissport only needed to ensure that staff were not working excessive hours and the health and safety of the workforce would not have been put at risk.”

“This is a success for Unite Legal Services and all our members should take some comfort from knowing that our legal services are at hand to act for members and their families.”

Anna Barnett from Thompsons Solicitors said: “A culture of excessive hours created a trap for this member and his colleagues. The fact that he had raised his concerns to bosses and they ignored him compounds his employers disregard for the health and safety of its workforce.”